Governor responds to commissioners

Concerns of reopening local businesses submitted by state governing bodies were addressed by North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper this week.

Monday saw the Stanly County Board of Commissioners approve the drafting of a letter to Cooper to allow local boards to be able to open businesses.

County Manager Andy Lucas said the letter was finalized and mailed Thursday afternoon. However, on Thursday afternoon, the governor issued Executive Order 135, which extends the stay-at-home order to May 7, before the letter could have reached his office.

Lucas said other counties had sent letters of a similar vein into Cooper’s office as well, including Gaston, Union and Lincoln counties.

At Monday’s meeting of the Stanly County Board of Commissioners, the subject of the reopening businesses after closings due to the coronavirus pandemic garnered some difference of opinion among the board.

Opening the discussion, Lucas noted the impact of the stay-at-home order on local businesses, including several members of the board having their own small business.

Commissioner Bill Lawhon had asked Lucas to put the discussion on the agenda. Included in the discussion was whether to send a letter to Roy Cooper’s office about allowing local boards to make decisions regarding stay-at-home orders.

Lawhon said neither he nor anyone on the board wants someone to die from the pandemic, but the local economy is suffering. 

“We need to urge the governor, whether we get the responsibility in making the decision, to reopen all businesses,” Lawhon said.

Lawhon said he believes if he does social distancing he will not get the coronavirus, despite being at high risk due to his age (68) and having diabetes.

“I do not worry personally about contracting COVID-19. And if I do, I’m going to do everything I can to beat it with the medical professionals we have,” Lawhon said.

Lawhon said Stanly has done a good job with the pandemic, noting 20 cases out of 62,000 people with three deaths. By Friday afternoon, the confirmed case count was up to 24, with four deaths.

Vice Chairman Ashley Morgan echoed Lawhon’s concerns and need for a letter to the governor. 

“It’s time to reopen the state…we have to reopen smartly, which I think we can. It’s doing more damage keeping the state closed,” Morgan said.

Commissioner Zack Almond also agreed with Lawhon and Morgan, saying citizens of Stanly are not dumb.

“They know how to use their personal discretion. I think we need to reopen as soon as possible,” Almond said.

One commissioner, Tommy Jordan, dissented with the views of the previous speakers on sending a letter to the governor, speaking about the effects of the stay-at-home order on people.

“I don’t think people inherently are smart…they have been stuck at home too long, caged up too long,” Jordan said.

Jordan added if counties like Mecklenburg or Cabarrus were to remain closed with Stanly open, local businesses could be overrun like Walmart or hair salons.

“(Opening) the whole state at once is a good idea,” Jordan said, adding he wants everything open as soon as possible.

Chairman Matthew Swain, who has recovered from his bout with COVID-19, said he has lived it, although he added he did not have it as bad as some but worse than others.

“It’s not something we can afford to cripple our economy,” Swain said. “My personal, very political opinion is I don’t trust the governor to pull us out of it.”

Swain said the reason he did not trust the governor stemmed in part from a recent press conference conducted by Cooper.

“(Cooper) said, ‘We need to make a plan,’ which means he doesn’t even have one to get us out of it,” Swain said.

(Cooper revealed a plan on Thursday. See more about it at )

The chairman added the second part of his distrust came from a teleconference the governor had with a number of county commissioners from across the state. In the conference, Swain said the governor stated he did not think the state should do a stay-at-home order.

Two days later, he issued Executive Order 121, the stay-at-home-order, which included paragraphs Swain said stated county commissioners failed to act.

“So (Cooper) threw us under the bus right there after he told us not to do it,” Swain said.

Swain added he does trust local businesses to use common sense to do the right thing and he supported sending a letter to the state to put control back on the county level.

The motion to send the letter passed 7-0.