North Carolina’s dismal implementation of the COVID-19 vaccination program is further proof of Governor Cooper’s poor leadership as the state reels from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. The recent disclosure of the state’s poor response in providing vaccinations statewide should spur the legislature to review the state’s Emergency Management Act and become more involved in crisis situations.
As of Monday, North Carolina had administrated 966 vaccinations per 100,000 people which, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, ranked the state as the sixth lowest in the country in the process of vaccinations.
Responding to this recent ranking the governor mobilized the state’s National Guard to assist in distribution and in some cases the administration of the vaccine. The program is short on details which the public should know.
The question that needs to be answered is why is the state so ill-prepared to implement a statewide vaccination program?
In October last year, the governor’s COVID-19 Vaccination Planning Team created a 140-page document detailing all aspects of implementation of a vaccination program once the vaccines arrived. The plan included five “guiding principles” assuring equitable access to vaccines; planning and distribution which would engage state and local government utilizing public and private partners; transparent and frequent public communications; tracking guidelines to assure equitable access and to track progress; and then finally “appropriate stewardship of resources and continuous evaluation…” Yet we learned this week that the state is very tardy in delivering the needed vaccines to such a degree that the governor is mobilizing the state’s National Guard.
We have noted in the past that Governor Cooper lacks awareness of the impacts of his mandates. Now he has proven he lacks strong leadership in implementation of program developed by his teams.
Last summer his lack of decisive leadership left the state school system in total disarray. He announced that he would determine the procedures for opening public schools by July 15 but delayed the announcement until the end of the month. This delayed decision left local school boards and administrators scrambling to meet his last-minute mandates with only three weeks before the state schools were required to open. The result was confusion for parents, teachers and administrators and a totally unsatisfactory educational experience for students.
Adding to his indecisiveness, Cooper has shown a lack of empathy for those businesses seriously, and in some cases terminally, damaged by his cavalier mandates that he initiated under the state’s Emergency Management Act. He has consistently initiated restrictions without any discussion with the Council of State, as required in the act, and with little to no participation with the legislature.
Wednesday he announced his decision to maintain until Jan. 29 his “modified phase 3” mandate that he initiated Dec. 8 and was to expire Jan. 8. That mandate sets a 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew for residents statewide and requires restaurants, bars, entertainment venues, personal care businesses and more to close at that time as well.
As the state’s small businesses struggle to survive under the governor’s draconian mandates, we now learn that the state’s vaccination process is one of the lowest performing programs in the country. As already noted, a special task force had already established plans and procedures that included transparency and regular evaluation which obviously did not happen at the outset and, we question if in fact it is happening now.
It is incumbent upon the N.C. General Assembly, as it begins the long legislative session in a few weeks, to address the Emergency Management Act which the governor has abused. He, along with the Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen, Director of the state’s Department of Health and Human Services, continue to set mandates and now direct vaccination programs without any accountability to the legislature or the Council of State, which is contrary to the act.
The legislature’s participation and oversight in future statewide crises involving implementation of the act, as with the current pandemic, is critical for the physical and economic health of the state.