PENDER COUNTY, N.C. (WECT) – Pender County is the latest North Carolina county to ask Governor Roy Cooper for the option to reopen sooner than the Governor’s statewide order would allow.
County Commission Chairman George Brown wrote a letter to the Governor on May 6. After thanking Cooper for his efforts to address the challenges of COVID-19 over the last two months, Brown outlined the reasons why commissioners are requesting this flexibility for local control over reopening.
Brown explained Pender County is still dealing with financial difficulties from hurricanes Matthew and Florence, as well as the economic hardship associated with the state’s COVID-19 response.
“All these events have taken a toll on our economy. We are are a resilient county as we have worked to overcome such challenges,” Brown stated. “While we realize this issue is a different kind of challenge, it is having a great impact on us and especially our economy as we recover from the devastation left by the recent storms.”
Brown went on to say that early, statewide restrictions “seemed appropriate the first few weeks as we learned about the virus and took the appropriate steps” to protect citizens.
However, Brown said he believes one size does not always fit all, citing Pender County’s 20 confirmed coronavirus cases. Six of those cases, including the only death reported in the county, are tied to Pender Correctional in Burgaw.
“Our counties are different in size, population, economies, and number of positive COVID-19 case,” he said.
“Pender County business owners are greatly impacted by the measures in place statewide. It is having a negative effect on our local economy. Being a county of only about 60,000 residents, our businesses and sales tax greatly impact our county,” Brown added.
“Allowing flexibility for counties with lower population and little to no positive COVID-19 cases and/or more flexibility with progressing through the phases seems appropriate…I am requesting the allowances for counties such as Pender to work with the state in securing more local control through the remainder of the process.”
Cooper has previously noted that a “regional reopening” approach was being considered, but he did not go into detail.
Cooper also said he thought a statewide floor for minimum shutdown requirements is most important, giving local governments the option to impose stricter measures, rather than more lenient ones.
Cooper added that other states that have lifted restrictions more quickly have seen rural outbreaks, and he worried that healthcare facilities in rural areas could get quickly overwhelmed.
According to published reports, Alamance, Wayne, Onslow, Jones, Carteret and Craven counties have also written letters to the governor requesting the option to reopen sooner than the statewide order would allow. Rockingham, Gaston, and Yadkin Counties have reportedly expressed an interest in regional reopening as well.
WECT has reached out to Cooper’s press office to get his response to Pender County’s request, and we will update this story with any new details from the Governor as soon as we get them.
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