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Our Opinion: Looser rules don't mean looser discipline

Our Opinion: Looser rules don't mean looser discipline

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Optimism and communities that have learned how to share a burden allowed Gov. Roy Cooper to ease COVID-19 restrictions in North Carolina last week. Though we’re not out of the woods yet, we can see the clearing from here.

But we look ahead cautiously.

“Today’s action is a show of confidence and trust, but we must remain cautious. People are losing their loved ones each day,” Cooper said Friday.

“We must keep up our guard. Many of us are weary, but we cannot let the weariness win.

“Now is the time to put our strength and resilience to work so that we can continue to turn the corner and get through this.”

We agree. So let’s enjoy a bit more freedom while we maintain our vigilance. The lifting of restrictions — which follows reduced numbers of infections and deaths in the state overall — is definitely good news.

Add to that the increased availability of COVID vaccines — 80,000 doses of the new Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine are scheduled to arrive in North Carolina tomorrow — and we have plenty of reasons to feel good.

And add to that the recent higher temperatures in the Triad — a nice prompt for more outdoor dining — and we’re practically giddy.

Among the changes in restrictions, bars, night clubs and indoor entertainment venues are now allowed to open at 30% capacity, with a cap of 250 people. Restaurants, breweries, wineries, distilleries, gyms, bowling alleys, museums, salons, personal care businesses and tattoo parlors are allowed to open at 50% capacity.

That’s not enough to cure all of our economic ills, but it’s a move in the right direction. Thanks to the people who have taken the idea of COVID precautions seriously, lives doubtlessly have been saved. Let’s not quit now.

Let’s not quit even as the number of people allowed inside residences increases from 10 to 25, while 50 remains the limit for individual outdoor gatherings.

Some are still likely to be careless. Wake Forest University has placed a student organization on interim suspension while investigating a “private event” (read: party) likely carried out against campus COVID-19 protocols. And at the UNC School of the Arts, which is running out of quarantine space, authorities have threatened to start sending students home if they can’t follow guidelines.

We realize that college students enjoy a unique sense of freedom that comes with distance from parental supervision — that’s part of the college experience.

But it’s also a time to start exhibiting a little maturity and restraint.

Cooper also vetoed a bill last week that would force schools to reopen, preferring to leave the decision to local school boards.

He said that he had told state legislators that he could sign a school reopening bill if it required districts to comply with state health department guidelines and allowed state and local leaders to respond to emergencies.

“As written, the bill threatens public health just as North Carolina strives to emerge from the pandemic,” Cooper said. It’s a wise decision.

Cooper has received pressure from Republicans and Democrats alike to reopen the state more quickly. We’re sure it has been tempting to give them what they want — especially as he ran for reelection in 2020.

But he’s stuck pretty firmly to his guns, basing restriction decisions on scientific data rather than politics. And so far he has avoided the kind of scandals that have afflicted other governors in their COVID decision-making.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, is not only facing allegations of sexual harassment, but he’s being investigated by the Justice Department for underreporting COVID-related nursing home deaths in his state. Some of his own Democratic colleagues are calling for his resignation.

Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom of California is facing a recall effort after hypocritically ignoring his own COVID restrictions. And in Florida, Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis is being accused of favoritism in vaccine distribution. DeSantis’ entire COVID response, characterized by pandering to voices of denial — and the coastal state’s beach-party lifestyle — has left much to be desired.

So we’d be justified in singing, “I like calling North Carolina home.”

Keep up the good work, Governor.

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