Political notebook: Sen. Carl Ford encourages increased crowds of Reopen NC protesters

Published 1:58 am Monday, May 11, 2020

The May 2 rally in Salisbury supporting the “reopening of the state” brought out about 20 protesters, and it got the support of N.C. Sen. Carl Ford, a China Grove Republican whose district covers Rowan and Stanly counties.

In a comment in the Reopen NC — Rowan County Facebook group, Ford wrote “Sorry I can’t attend. We actually gave meetings and voters in Raleigh Saturday. I’m 100% behind the reopen movement.” But that comment wasn’t the first time Ford has supported the movement or been vocal about his desire to see protests and a reopening of the state’s economy.

On May 6, Ashley Smith, co-founder of Reopen NC, spoke to Ford in an interview posted online about the NC Freedom to Work Act, a bill of which he is primary sponsor, and the Reopen NC movement. Smith said Reopen NC was inspired by Facebook posts from Ford and Sen. Warren Daniel, a Republican who represents the 46th District in western North Carolina.

“It’s so good to hear that our efforts are being felt because sometimes from this side of movement it’s hard,” Smith said.

Ford replied and encouraged the presence of large crowds at the protests. 

“I would like to see 10 or 20,000 in Raleigh. That would really get the message across,” Ford said.

That statement comes in spite of the fact that public health guidelines advise against large crowds and the governor’s order doesn’t allow gatherings of more than 10 people. The guidelines are intended to prevent the spread of COVID-19, which does not currently have a vaccine, and the overwhelming of the health care system’s capacity.

Reopen NC has a rally planned for Tuesday at the State Legislative Building in Raleigh. Ford urged Smith and Reopen NC supporters to return May 18 when all the legislators are expected to return to Raleigh, too. Ford told Smith to keep the number of protesters up and for the organizers to continue to work together.

Ford said he has seen an increase of people reaching out to him to reopen the state and that, while the governor has more information than he does, he would have handled COVID-19 differently.

“I don’t know if I’d have been governor, if I had even closed at all,” Ford said to Smith. “And if I had, there would have been a plan from the get-go and maybe a couple of weeks, a month max.”

In an interview Thursday with the Salisbury Post, Ford said counties should have been able to craft their COVID-19 response.

“Wake and Mecklenburg are not the same as Stanly and Rowan, much less McDowell County or Bertie County,” he said. “We got this whole blanket thing across the state and some counties have one case or two cases. They’re shut down just like Wake and Mecklenburg. It doesn’t make any sense.”

Ford admitted he has gotten some pushback for his position.

“I’ve gotten emails saying I don’t care about people dying and that’s not true,” Ford said. “There’s just other problems.”

He said people who lost their job are now dealing with mental problems for the first time in their lives because they can’t pay their bills. Ford said it was not good to recently see increases in alcohol sales during the stay-at-home order. 

If people are not comfortable with reopening, they can continue to stay at home, Ford said. And Ford said he said he understands there are vulnerable populations, which he said included himself.

“If people want to, they can continue to do that and continue to wear masks if they want to in public,” he said. “I don’t want to tell them what they can and can’t do. On the other side of that, I don’t want to tell people what can and can’t do as far as earning a living.”

Ford said he is unsure that there will be an increase of COVID-19 cases if the state continues through its phases of “reopening,” but that he would support moving forward even if cases do spike.

“Part of the problem is we haven’t been able to build an immunity, much less a herd immunity, because everyone has been on lockdown,” Ford said. “I think there is the potential — not saying this is going to happen — is the potential when all the phases end, there could be a spike. I hope there’s not.”

Ford said he is in favor of boosting antibody testing capacity, which will reveal who had COVID-19 and didn’t know they had it.

HPU Poll: Coronavirus a major threat to the economy

A High Point University Poll on May 8 found that majorities of North Carolinians see the coronavirus as a major threat to the U.S. economy, 84%; world economy, 79%; North Carolina economy, 71%; and the health of the U.S. population, 65%.

Only about one-third of North Carolinians said that the coronavirus is a major threat to their personal financial situation, 36%, or to their personal health, 33%.

The poll asked respondents to rate the job of public officials lately. That included President Donald Trump, who received an “excellent” response rating from 22% of poll respondents. About 37% give him a poor response.

About one-third of North Carolinians said that ordinary people across the country, 37%, and the federal government, 31%, are not taking the outbreak seriously enough. Majorities of poll respondents said the following were reacting about right: people in their household, 84%; their local school system, 80%; their local and state governments, 71%; and ordinary people in their community, 57%.

The poll surveyed 404 North Carolina residents on April 16 to May 1.

National health security official joins RNC committee

The Republican National Convention Committee on Arrangements announced Thursday Dr. Jeffrey W. Runge, a national health security official, is joining the team as a senior advisor for health and safety planning. 

The 2020 Republican National Convention will be held at Spectrum Center in Charlotte on Aug. 24-27. Nearly 50,000 visitors, including delegates, members of the media and guests, are expected to attend.

With 35 years of experience as a board-certified physician in emergency medicine and leadership positions across the federal government and industry, Runge’s medical and risk management background and work with federal, state and private entities will help guide the convention, a news release said.

“We’ve said from the start that we are committed to hosting a safe and successful 2020 Republican National Convention in Charlotte, and Dr. Runge’s background and expertise will be instrumental as we continue to map out our plans that ensure the health safety of all convention participants and the Charlotte community,” said President and CEO Marcia Lee Kelly. “We recognize this hasn’t been done before, but we remain committed to leading the path forward so that we can safely re-open America and create a five-star event for attendees and guests this August.”