(The Center Square) – North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper has extended the length of his executive order requiring government workers to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
Cooper said the order, initially issued in July, should encourage more people to get vaccinated as the state faces a COVID-19 surge caused by the omicron variant. The order was to expire Tuesday but now will be in effect until April 5.
'For people who have been vaccinated and especially for those who have gotten boosters, the new omicron variant has been less severe than previous surges," Cooper said. "With these vaccines and boosters, we have an amazing tool to save people's lives and beat this pandemic – and we'll keep our foot on the gas when it comes to getting more shots and more boosters administered."
Cooper's order directs the Office of State Human Resources to implement a policy requiring state government cabinet agencies to verify whether their employees are fully vaccinated. The rule would apply to anyone who works at agencies that are part of the governor's office or is headed by the governor's cabinet members. The state employees must get both shots of a COVID-19 vaccine and a booster shot, if eligible.
Unvaccinated employees are required to be tested at least once a week and must wear a mask indoors. Eighteen government workers have been fired because of the mandate, The Associated Press reported.
Cooper's order also encourages all state and local government agencies and private businesses to adopt the policy. Employers with 100 or more workers must require employees be to vaccinated against COVID-19 or undergo weekly testing under a federal order issued by President Joe Biden.
Republican lawmakers have slammed the mandates, citing flip-flopping guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
About 29.8% of COVID-19 tests reported by the state's health department were positive for the disease. It is the sixth consecutive day the rate was more than 20%, while health officials warned the positivity rate should not exceed 5%.
North Carolina has administered about 14.8 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. About 74% of adults have received at least one dose of the vaccine, and about 44% of eligible adults have received their booster shot.