Cooper, cabinet leaders again push local leaders to enact additional restrictions

Gov. Roy Cooper briefs media from the Emergency Operations Center in Raleigh. Photo via N.C. Dept. of Public Safety

RALEIGH – Gov. Roy Cooper, N.C. Dept. of Health and Human Services secretary Mandy Cohen and N.C. Dept. of Public Safety secretary Erik Hooks wrote a letter to local elected officials again asking them to implement additional executive order enforcement measures.

The letter begins by saying, “We write today to strongly encourage you to adopt local ordinances to establish civil penalties for violations of the governor’s COVID-19 executive orders. This gives law enforcement and other local government officials more flexibility to enforce EO 181 and other COVID-19 orders. We are attaching a recent advisory letter from the N.C. Department of Justice concluding that you have this legal authority.”

“Now more than ever we need help with enforcement from our local partners to fight this raging pandemic,” said Gov. Cooper in a statement. “Taking steps now to protect our communities by enforcing safety precautions will help reduce transmission of the virus and save lives.”

Cooper’s office touted an advisory opinion written by the N.C. Department of Justice that concludes local governments “may enforce stricter requirements than those set forth in gubernatorial orders, and they may do so through civil enforcement mechanisms.”

The opinion, written by Cooper’s deputy general counsel Blake Thomas, also notes that the advisory opinion a formal Attorney General’s Opinion as it has not been reviewed by their procedures.

“We are on a dangerous course,” said NCDHHS secretary Cohen. “Everyone – our counties and municipalities, businesses, community organizations, and every North Carolinian – must act to save lives and make sure our hospitals can care for those who need them.”

NSJ has reported on multiple occasions that Cooper, Cohen, and Hooks have all encouraged local leaders – county and city – to establish civil penalties in addition what has been prescribed in Cooper’s executive orders. The stay-at-home order, which went into effect on Friday, Dec. 11, is punishable as a class 2 misdemeanor.

The letter and opinion are publicly available.