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'Balance safety against the risk' | Group pushing state leaders to reopen NC in May

"We obviously have to balance safety against the risk, if you will, of basically collapsing the economy to where it will take us years to recover."

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — In downtown Raleigh near the State Capitol, a group of North Carolinians pushed elected leaders to reopen the state for business.

The Reopen NC movement on Facebook has more than 27,000 members in its group. Supporters would like to see the state opened back up for business no later than May 1.

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A group of supporters rallied in a parking lot near the State Capitol, honking their horns in unison to get their message across to lawmakers.

According to a release, the group believes the economy cannot sustain this, and the scientific data being released does not support a continued shutdown of the state.

NBC affiliate WRAL reported that Raleigh police determined the rally to be too many people, too close together and asked the group to disperse. WRAL reported one woman who failed to leave was taken away in handcuffs.

Dr. John Connaughton, Barings professor of financial economics at UNC Charlotte, said he believes states with lower infection rates like North Carolina can selectively start to open some businesses back up in May.

"You start industries back up and sectors of the economy up where they have a high value added to the GDP of the state or the country,” Connaughton said. “So you want to start your manufacturing back up. You want to start your finance back up."

However, he said hospitality industry businesses may be the last to open up, and when they do, there may be capacity restrictions.

"We cannot have bars and restaurants and movie theaters and entertainment venues and hotels and conventions, we can't have that back to business as usual,” Connaughton said.

Businesses may return to semi-normal operations by the end of this year, but Connaughton said it may be several years before the economy returns to where it was in February 2020 before the pandemic took off in the U.S. 

He said some businesses may not be the same until a vaccine is found for COVID-19.

“Without a vaccine, there are just a lot of things that we took for granted in terms of proximity with others in the way that some industries work,” Connaughton said. “Hotels, conventions, et cetera, bars, sporting events that simply can’t take place until there’s a vaccine.”

Governor Cooper’s stay-at-home order is set to end currently on April 29. He said in a news conference Monday that state leaders will take health data into account when deciding if and when to ease restrictions moving forward.

"We obviously have to balance safety against the risk, if you will, of basically collapsing the economy to where it will take us years to recover," Connaughton said.


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