Former North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services Secretary


Mandy Cohen
has reportedly been selected by President
Joe Biden
to be the next director of the


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
, but her record during the COVID-19 pandemic in the
Tar Heel
State is casting a shadow over her expected appointment.

During Cohen’s time at NCDHHS, North Carolina experienced some of the longest restrictions and strictest mask mandates in the country, contributing to significant socioeconomic troubles for the state.



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North Carolina was one of the first states to close public schools on
March 14, 2020
, which was supposed to last “at least two weeks,” according to the initial NCDHHS announcement. Schools, however, did not reopen until March of 2021.

By 2021, Cohen
acknowledged
that “students need in-person school not only for academics, but to learn social skills, get reliable meals, and to continue to grow and thrive.”

North Carolina was especially hit by learning loss during this period, ranking as the
eighth
worst state in terms of math and reading deficiencies and decreases in public school enrollment.

Cohen was also a strong advocate of mandatory masking of children in schools, including those in early elementary years.

The same executive order that shut down schools also banned gatherings of more than 100 people beginning on


March 14, 2020
, and stay-at-home orders went into effect on


March 30, 2020
, lasting until the end of May 2020.

A statewide
mask mandate
took effect in June 2020 and was not
lifted
until February 2022, after Cohen’s departure from NCDHHS.

As a result of Gov. Roy Cooper’s (D-NC) order that forced bars and restaurants to shut down in
March 2020
, nearly
10%
of the state’s independently owned bars permanently closed. Unemployment benefits were extended by the same executive order in recognition of how these public health measures would affect workers.

In Charlotte, for example, homelessness increased by
55%
from 2020 to 2021 to over 3,000 individuals.
Low-income
households, especially those with children, were the most vulnerable to economic disruption due to shutdowns. The homelessness rates in Raleigh have also nearly
doubled
since 2020, according to ABC11.

The measures taken by Cooper on Cohen’s watch drew criticism from Republicans, including in 2020 from President Donald Trump, who was forced to move the GOP convention from the state because of its restrictions.


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Treasurer of North Carolina and current GOP candidate for governor in 2024, Dale Folwell, called for prayers for the future of America’s health under Cohen’s leadership.

“As a member of the NC Council of State, my observation is that the actions of Dr. Mandy Cohen during Covid resulted in more disease, death, poverty and illiteracy,” Folwell tweeted.


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