RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Despite recent vetoes by Gov. Roy Cooper (D), the Republican-controlled General Assembly passed bills Tuesday to reopen more businesses and allow for Independence Day celebrations to go on amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The House of Representatives gave final approval to a bill to open amusement parks, arcades, small event venues and fairs at 50 percent capacity. Employees would have to wear masks while they would be optional for customers. The vote was 66-49.
“We need to find a balance, a balance between weighing the concerns over our public health as well as other ways that this has impacted our society,” said Rep. Perrin Jones (R-Pitt), who works as an anesthesiologist.
Rep. Darren Jackson (D-Wake) criticized Republicans for bringing up bills to reopen the state as North Carolina continues to see hospitalizations due to COVID-19 rise.
That reached a new high Tuesday of 915 people, according to the state’s Department of Health and Human Services. The agency also says 10 percent of COVID-19 tests are coming back positive, while health officials say they want to get that number closer to 5 percent.
“It’s a city ordinance here in Raleigh that you have to wear a mask. We can’t even get the people in this building, in the City of Raleigh, who are leaders across this state, to wear a mask, one of the few things we can do,” Jackson said.
Cooper is expected to announce this week the next phase of the reopening process which could include a statewide requirement for people to wear masks.
The bill approved Tuesday allows for event venues, such as those for weddings, to reopen.
Natasha and John Ford say they’ll be wearing masks when their wedding and event venue Chandelier, which is in Cary, is allowed to reopen.
They support the bill the General Assembly passed Tuesday.
“We will be wearing gloves. We will have a bathroom attendant. We will follow all the procedures that Governor Cooper and Dr. Cohen really want to ensure that everyone is safe,” Natasha Ford said. “Just making sure our brides feel comfortable. That’s what we aim for.”
The couple opened their venue about a year ago but have not hosted any events since the COVID-19 pandemic began.
“When we opened, it was solid. It was amazing. Then, everything stopped,” Natasha said.
John added, “The fact that we had to stop, it was financially draining. It was mentally draining.”
The Fords also own Fords Fluent N’ Food Catering. Their next event is scheduled for August, but the uncertainty surrounding what will be allowed and what won’t during the pandemic has some of their customers already looking at postponing fall events.
“We need to be able to let our brides know things, and we need guidance. I think that’s all we’re really looking for,” John Ford said.
Cooper has vetoed recent bills passed by the General Assembly to reopen businesses closed in phase two because those bills would limit his ability to put restrictions back into place if there’s a surge of COVID-19 cases at some point.
The bills that have passed would require Cooper to get concurrence from the Council of State, which is comprised of ten officials elected statewide. Six of them are Republicans and four are Democrats.
Rep. Allison Dahle (D-Wake) said, “I want to reopen. I want for people to be successful. But, we have to take this seriously and we have to act with responsibility.”
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