Dem. Gov. Roy Cooper has imposed sweeping COVID-19 restrictions over the past year. The use of executive orders and the bypassing of Council of State approvals has left many wondering about the legality of the restrictions. However, even if the orders end up holding legal muster, Cooper’s most ubiquitous order, his mask mandate and business shutdowns, may very well not hold scientific muster – even when viewed through the lens of his own administration’s evidence.

This week, JLF’s Jon Sanders went through, study by study, to examine Gov. Coopers’ evidence for his executive orders and economic shutdowns. For instance, Jon Sander’s summarizes one study:

Masks Do More Than Protect Others During COVID-19: Reducing the Inoculum of SARS- CoV-2 to Protect the Wearer. J Gen Intern Med (2020);1-4.

Received on June 22, 2020, this study tests a new theory for universal masking, that it “reduces the ‘inoculum’ or dose of the virus for the mask-wearer. Authors acknowledge it is “one of the first times” and “one of the first perspectives to discuss this evidence supporting this theory.” The study proceeds from the assumption of “the effectiveness of facial masks,” which in this study includes cloth masks, and moves to test this “unique angle on why universal public masking during the COVID-19 pandemic should be one of the most important pillars of disease control.”

Gandhi et al. find outcomes in Asian countries “accustomed to masking” and some early-mask countries to be “suggestive of this viral inoculum theory.” Those countries “have fared well in terms of rates of severe illness and death,” and even when cases have resurged in those areas after reopening, “case-fatality rate has remained low.”

Of note, Gandhi et al. state that “For this particular pillar of pandemic control to work in the USA, leading politicians will need to endorse and model mask-wearing.” The study does not specifically endorse universal mask orders with enforcement. It does, however, specifically warn against economic shutdowns and lockdowns:

“The efforts to preserve life must be balanced against the catastrophic consequences of shutting down economies, which ultimately will lead to more suffering, poverty, and death than the virus itself, especially for the working poor.”

Sanders asks: “Does this study support Cooper’s extreme exercise of power?” His answer? No. Sanders writes:

However compelling it may sound to a policymaker, a novel theory in the early stages of research cannot be the basis for extreme emergency orders. Changing the culture is no business of an extreme emergency order.

Furthermore, while Gandhi et al. propose that politicians “endorse and model” mask-wearing, they specifically warn against the even deadlier effects of another aspect of Cooper’s order: “shutting down economies.” Cooper has already done that once, and in recent weeks he and Cohen have been threatening to do it again, including most ominously this past weekend.

This study put forward by the Cooper administration warns that shutting down the economy bodes “catastrophic consequences … which ultimately will lead to more suffering, poverty, and death than the virus itself, especially for the working poor.”

Read Sander’s full brief examining the numerous reports here. Read JLF’s Jon Guze’s on amending the emergency powers act, which lays out the governor’s authority during times of crisis here.