By Jason Schaumburg
(The Center Square) – N.C. Senate Leader Phil Berger continued to denounce Gov. Roy Cooper’s reopening restrictions May 13, calling on the governor to allow barbershops and hair salons to reopen in some counties.
The state entered its first phase of reopening the economy May 8, when some businesses were allowed to reopen with limited capacities, per Cooper’s executive order.
Retail stores were allowed to reopen with a 50% cap on occupancy, increased sanitation and symptom checks for employees. Many businesses, including bars, restaurants, barbershops and hair salons, were kept closed.
Cooper’s approach led Berger, R-Rockingham, to question why a blanket order for the state was justified when over half of North Carolina’s counties made up less than 10% of confirmed COVID-19 cases.
Berger continued to challenge Cooper on May 13, calling on the governor to grant counties the power to reopen hair salons and barbershops. In a news release, Berger said 25 states, “including nearly every state in the Southeast,” have reopened hair salons and barbershops in some capacity.
“It’s time to follow the lead of the majority of states in our region and the country. Hair salon owners and employees can’t work, and many of them still can’t get unemployment assistance from the Cooper Administration,” Berger said. “Gov. Cooper needs to provide counties with the flexibility to reopen hair salons and barbershops if they choose.”
The North Carolina Division of Employment Security reported through May 12 that 1.1 million unemployment claims have been filed since March 15 but only 44% – 494,251 claims – have been paid.
“I am pushing Employment Security to go faster,” Cooper said at a news briefing May 12. “This is a nationwide problem because you’re talking about a system in North Carolina that was handling 12,000 claims has over a million claims now.”
“Gov. Cooper can’t have it both ways,” Sen. Bill Rabon, R-Brunswick, said in the May 13 news release. “He can’t prohibit people from working, and then fail to provide the unemployment assistance that people are due.”
As of May 13, the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services reported 15,816 COVID-19 cases in the state, including 597 deaths. The state has conducted 210,457 tests, and 521 people are currently hospitalized. NCDHHS data suggests hospitalizations have plateaued and the percent of positive tests has started to decline in recent days.
“The majority of states in our region and the country have reviewed the science, facts and data and reached a different conclusion than Gov. Cooper’s,” Berger said. “What is his strategic endgame in choosing a different path based on similar facts and data? We need a view into his administration’s goals and thinking.”
“We’re going to rely on the science, the data and the facts that we have set out in order to tell us when we go into phase two,” Cooper said. “We know we need to boost the economy. It’s one of the reasons why we set up these phases. But you can’t boost the economy until people have confidence in their safety.”