On March 10, 2020, Governor Roy Cooper declared a state of emergency over COVID-19 in Executive Order No. 116. Less than two months later, the North Carolina General Assembly ratified Senate Bill 704: the COVID-19 Recovery Act, and Governor Cooper signed it into law (N.C. Gen. Stat. § 90-21.130 et seq.). While the country faces an increase in COVID-19 cases related to new subvariants, Governor Cooper has announced that North Carolina’s state of emergency will be lifted on August 15, 2022.
The end of the state of emergency will result in a parallel end to the broad protections afforded by the Act for healthcare services. In short, the Act protected North Carolina healthcare providers and facilities from civil claims (not criminal or regulatory actions) arising from acts or omissions that were impacted by COVID-19, and that were made in good faith. You can read more about these protections here. Under its express language, however, the Act applies only “to acts or omissions occurring during either the pendency of Executive Order No. 116 issued on March 10, 2020, by Governor Roy A. Cooper, or during any subsequent time period during which a state of emergency is declared to be in effect by the Governor, in any year, in response to COVID-19.”
Healthcare providers and facilities should be aware that even though COVID-19 appears here to stay, the protections provided by the Act will not. Given the ever-changing nature of the policies, procedures, and guidelines from CDC regarding COVID-19, healthcare providers should continue to monitor developments closely. Also, healthcare providers should still maintain documentation of the effects of COVID-19 on operations. This could potentially prove useful for future litigation purposes depending on the particular circumstances of the case.