AP Photo/Gary Robertson North Carolina Lt. Gov. Dan Forest
AP Photo/Gary Robertson

North Carolina Lt. Gov. Dan Forest seems to be putting the financial success of businesses ahead of the health and safety of his residents.

North Carolina Lt. Gov. Dan Forest (R) offered conflicting responses this week to Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper’s decision to close down the state’s bars and restaurants as a way to stop the spread of the coronavirus outbreak.

On Tuesday, Forest, who is running to unseat the governor in November, seemed to oppose Cooper’s decision, releasing a statement saying it would “devastate our economy, shutter many small businesses, and leave many people unemployed, especially in the rural areas of our state.”

Forest added that Cooper, who is seeking reelection, “does not have the authority to issue this part of his executive order,” stating a legal objection to Cooper’s order.

On Wednesday, however, Forest walked back his criticism during a radio interview, before eventually changing position again.

“I’m not challenging the decision,” Forest said on Wednesday morning’s KC O’dea Show. “That’s the governor’s role to be able to do that [close down restaurants].”

He said he took issue with Cooper’s “lack of communication” on the matter with others in the government.

He added that he doesn’t “want to even challenge the governor’s decision making on that.”

“I don’t think that’s politically expedient at this moment to do that,” Forest said.

Later that morning, in an interview with Fox Business, Forest reverted to his original criticism of Cooper.

When asked about closing restaurants in the state, Forest said, “I don’t think it’s a good move across the board.”

He noted that only 16 of North Carolina’s 100 counties had confirmed COVID-19 cases. “We should allow those economies to still flourish,” he said.

The contradicting interviews were first flagged by American Bridge, a progressive opposition research group.

The Cooper campaign fired back at Forest on Thursday.

“In a crisis, you need a leader who takes decisive action to keep the health and safety of North Carolinians the top priority,” spokesperson Liz Doherty said in an email. “By lobbing attacks, playing politics, and waffling in the wind, Dan Forest has shown he is not fit to lead.”

Forest’s criticism of Cooper also doesn’t hold water, according to one national health expert.

Brock Slabach, executive vice president of the National Rural Hospital Association, confirmed in an interview this week that, typically, by the time coronavirus is detected in a community, it is too late to stop the spread.

“The unfortunate thing about this disease,” he said, “is that this one, craftily, is nonsymptomatic for maybe up to seven days while you can still be infecting other people.”

On Thursday, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services reported 97 confirmed cases in 22 counties, six more counties than Forest noted one day earlier.

There were at least 10,822 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the United States at present, according to the New York Times. At least 168 people have died.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

Subscribe to our Courier Newsroom network daily coronavirus update here.