Gov. Cooper extends vaccination and testing requirements for some state employees

Order extension allows redefinition of fully vaccinated to include booster shots

N.C. DHHS Secretary Kody Kinsley listens as North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper speaks during a press conference on the state of the COVID-19 pandemic in Raleigh, N.C. on Tuesday, Jan. 4, 2022. (Julia Wall/The News & Observer via AP)

RALEIGH — During a Jan. 4 COVID-19 briefing, Gov. Roy Cooper announced he would be extending a previous executive order requiring vaccination or testing for certain state employees. 

“This week, I’ll extend Executive Order 224 which requires vaccines or testing of state employees,” Cooper said. “When I extend the order, the Office of State Human Resources will have the authority to include boosters in the definition of being up to date on vaccines when CDC takes that action.” 

The announcement came as Cooper’s statewide COVID-19 state-of-emergency order turns 665 days old. 

Under Executive Order 224, all state employees falling under cabinet-level authority were required to either provide proof that they are fully vaccinated or be tested at least once a week for COVID-19.

Executive Order 224 expired Aug. 31, 2021, however, the State Office of Human Resources put policies in place that began Sept. 1, 2021. State employees refusing to comply with the policies could be disciplined or fired. The extension is effective immediately and will expire April 5, 2022. 

Executive Order 224 originally defined fully vaccinated as someone who is two weeks out from having received the second dose in a two-dose COVID-19 vaccine series (Pfizer or Moderna), or someone two weeks from a single-dose COVID-19 vaccine (Johnson & Johnson). 

Under the extension, OSHR “will be given the authority to include boosters in the definition of fully vaccinated when appropriate.” 

Cooper was asked if he is tracking state employee booster shots with regard to extending his executive order. He said that when the CDC makes that decision that boosters are part of the new definition of fully vaccinated that his order will reflect that as “part of the requirement for state employees.” 

Cooper also urged the public to get vaccinated or to get a booster shot. He said that he and his family have received booster shots. He also said that vaccination “is the strongest protection we have to fight this virus and live normal lives” and made the claim that “most people with COVID in the ICU right now” are unvaccinated. 

Interim N.C. Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) Secretary Kody Kinsley also claimed that “over 87% of individuals in the hospital right now are unvaccinated.” 

Only one reporter asked about the emerging new oral antiviral treatments. There were no direct questions about the state’s supply of Monoclonal Antibody treatments despite increasing complaints from numerous states that the Biden administration has severely cut off their supply of those treatments. 

In previous briefings, Cooper had indicated that the state’s supply of monoclonal antibody treatments was ample, but in the Jan. 4 briefing he said all COVID treatments are in “very limited supply.” Kinsley also made a statement about limited supply. 

“Because supply is limited per federal guidance, treatments will be used for those at highest risk of severe disease,” said Kinsley. He added the best treatment is “prevention” and urged the public to get vaccinated or boosted right away. 

During questions from the media, Kinsley was asked about the “scramble for testing.” He responded that they anticipated continued elevated levels of demand for testing. 

Cooper admitted there were a “record number of tests” administered over the holidays. He later said that two additional rapid tests have been authorized by the FDA and will put “millions more” tests on the market. 

Kinsley said that both NCDHHS COVID guidance and the StrongSchoolsNC Toolkit have been updated with the latest CDC information, which includes reduced quarantine length. He also said they are continuing to review adding “Test to Stay” policies to the toolkit. 

About A.P. Dillon 560 Articles
A.P. Dillon is a North State Journal reporter located near Raleigh, North Carolina. Find her on Twitter: @APDillon_