RALEIGH (June 25, 2020) – We applaud Governor Cooper’s Executive Order yesterday to extend Phase 2 of reopening the state and take new measures such as requiring masks to safeguard the lives of essential workers and other workers who are unable to work from home during the COVID-19 pandemic. In the end, it will be best for the economy and our communities if North Carolina reopens in a safe and healthy way that prevents the spread of the virus.

Thanks to the order mandating that individuals wear masks in public, based on CDC recommendations that the use of face coverings decreases the spread of COVID-19, at least some North Carolina workers will be spared going to jobs that endanger their health. However, while requiring masks is an important step, more measures are needed to ensure the safety of working people in some of the most dangerous occupations, such as agricultural workers and meatpacking workers, who are disproportionately people of color. For example, the U.S. Department of Labor and the CDC have issued joint guidance for agricultural workers, and employers in North Carolina should be required to follow this guidance to protect them.

Our state leaders must continue to ensure our state adequately supports those most in need, such as making sure workplaces are safe for workers, providing paid leave for workers left out of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, improving the state’s Unemployment Insurance program, and ensuring North Carolinians can access affordable health care and necessary treatment.

This pandemic will continue to impact our communities for years to come and has already disproportionately affected people of color. Our state leaders have an opportunity to establish the policies and support systems today that will guide us now and in the future.