COVID-19 cases continue to devastate North Carolina as hospital ICU capacity reaches 83% and only 1.4% of North Carolinians have been fully vaccinated

 As the ranking member of the HELP Committee, Senator Burr has refused to swiftly schedule a confirmation for Biden’s Health and Human Services Secretary nominee Xavier Becerra, leaving the department without leadership as COVID-19 continues to devastate North Carolina  

Accountable Senate War Room: “North Carolinians are fighting sickness and death, fighting to get back to work or keep their business open, and fighting poverty. They shouldn’t have to fight against their own senator.”

 Washington, D.C. – Today, the Accountable Senate War Room released a background brief outlining the ongoing devastation COVID-19 has had on the state of North Carolina, highlighting the increasing need to get the pandemic under control. While North Carolinians are fighting for their lives against the pandemic and its subsequent economic impacts, Senator Richard Burr, ranking member of the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP), has slow-walked President Biden’s Cabinet Health and Human Services (HHS) secretary nominee, Xavier Becerra. 

“North Carolinians are fighting sickness and death, fighting to get back to work or keep their business open, and fighting poverty. Who they shouldn’t have to fight is their own senator,” said Mairead Lynn, spokesperson for Accountable Senate War Room. “Senate Republicans are using every trick in the book to delay or obstruct the confirmation of President Biden’s Cabinet nominees while their constituents are fighting for their lives. Now more than ever, Burr must put politics aside for his constituents, and that starts with prioritizing Xavier Becerra’s confirmation.” 

As the ranking member of the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP), Senator Richard Burr has yet to prioritize scheduling a hearing for Becerra. During the lame-duck period while Republicans were in power, Burr was poised to become the top Republican on the committee and refused to make headway on scheduling hearings before the Inauguration. Despite the dire need for leadership as we pass the grim 450,000 death marker almost one year into the pandemic, Burr continues to slow-walk the confirmation process. Delays to Becerra’s confirmation means delays to North Carolinians getting back to work, getting vaccinated, or getting healthy, and prevents the Biden administration from tackling some of the toughest challenges our country faces. Burr and the rest of the HELP Committee must put politics aside to ensure a swift confirmation process for Xavier Becerra and the rest of President Biden’s Cabinet nominees. 

BACKGROUND BRIEF: The impact of obstruction in North Carolina

North Carolina has been hit hard over the course of the pandemic, with over 763,000 cases and over 5,400 deaths. Hospital ICU capacity is at 83%, and a slow vaccination process leaves only 1.4% of North Carolinians completely vaccinated, emphasizing the need for an expanded national vaccination program to be put in place as soon as possible. Earlier this week, in Burr’s first hearing as ranking member, he urged the Committee to make the COVID-19 response its top priority. However, the Committee still hasn’t announced a hearing for Becerra to be the nation’s top health official. There has never been a more dire need for a HHS secretary to be confirmed, and Senator Burr is putting his constituents in more danger by refusing to prioritize the confirmation process for Xavier Becerra to lead HHS. 

The Department of Health and Human Services plays a huge role in the work that must be done to get the COVID-19 pandemic under control. After being left with a “nonexistent coronavirus vaccine distribution plan” by the outgoing Trump administration, President Biden is essentially starting “from scratch” and needs his HHS secretary in place to help plan to distribute hundreds of millions of vaccine doses across the country. Further delays could cause vaccines to expire before being administered, forcing life-saving doses to be tossed in the trash. Senate Republicans failed to do their job while they had power during the lame-duck period. It’s time for Republicans to work across the aisle to ensure the Biden administration has all the tools to combat the COVID crisis as quickly and effectively as possible, starting with a swift confirmation of Xavier Becerra. 

Here’s a quick snapshot of the COVID-19 situation in North Carolina:

  • Total Case Count: 763,358
  • Daily Case Count Average: 5,455
  • Total Death Count: 9,397
  • Hospital ICU Occupancy Rate: 83%
  • North Carolinians Completely Vaccinated: 1.4%
  • North Carolinians Who Received At Least One Vaccine Dose: 7.6%
  • Percent Of Vaccine Supply Distributed: 67%
  • Disproportionate Racial Impacts:
    • Hispanic, Black, and Native American North Carolinians were more likely to contract COVID-19 than white North Carolinians. 
    • Black North Carolinians were over 20% more likely to die of COVID-19 than white North Carolinians. 
    • Black North Carolinians made up 22% of state’s population but only 11% of vaccinations


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