The address recognized the resilience of North Carolinians throughout the pandemic and provide a vision of shared recovery that rebuilds the economy and communities to be stronger than ever.
The governor highlighted the experiences of North Carolinians who have stepped up across the state to help throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
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“The past year has tested every person in our state and I have been so inspired by the resilience, innovation and support for one another that North Carolinians have shown during this pandemic,” said Gov. Cooper. “In tough times, the people of North Carolina step up. I’m so grateful for the efforts of people across our state and honored to recognize some amazing North Carolinians for their contributions tonight.”
COVID-19 precautions did not allow for guests to be present. Gov. Cooper spoke to the guests via Zoom and thanked them for their contributions.
House Speaker Tim Moore, R-Cleveland, delivered a response to the State of the State address.
Those recognized Monday night included:
Felecia Young, Salisbury; Sixth Grade Math Teacher at Knox Middle School
Young introduced lessons through social platforms such as Tik Tok to keep her math students engaged despite the many challenges remote learning presented. She was nominated as a “Teacher Hero of COVID-19.”
Dr. Karen Smith, Raeford; Provider at Independent Family Practice
Dr. Karen Smith first used telemedicine to care for patients with opioid addictions and then began using it during the pandemic to reach patients who were hesitant to come in for medical care. Many of her patients also did not have access to high-speed internet, so Dr. Smith extended her office’s wifi to the parking lot and offered tablets for patient use. This allowed people with limited internet access to get the medical care they needed.
Cecil Conrad, Lexington; Owner of The Bar-B-Q Center
The Bar-B-Q Center, a staple in Lexington, NC, was opened by the Conrad family in the late 1950s. The famous restaurant continued to serve their community throughout the pandemic, operating with a drive-up curbside business and offering take-out meals. The Bar-B-Q Center was a recipient of the Mortgage, Utility, and Rent Relief (MURR) funding. These funds were critical to helping the restaurant stay open, keep and pay their staff and importantly, keep employees and customers safe by allowing them to purchase all the necessary cleaning supplies and sanitizers they needed.
Cassandra Brooks, Clayton; Owner of The Little Believers Academy
Throughout the entire pandemic, Cassandra Brooks kept her child care centers in Clayton and Garner open safely, primarily serving families of essential workers like grocery store clerks and nurse practitioners. Brooks is also a member on the North Carolina Health Care Coverage Council. As a childcare provider who sees many people without health insurance, she’s a strong advocate for Medicaid expansion.
Natesha Fields, New Bern; Nurse at CarolinaEast Medical Center
Fields is an Associate Manager in the Emergency Department at CarolinaEast Medical Center in New Bern. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Fields has been on the frontlines of this pandemic, from dealing with PPE shortages to caring for patients dying from the virus to supporting staff.
Chris Morris, High Point; President, Custom Contract Furnishings
Early in the pandemic, Custom Contract Furnishings partnered with a local fabrics manufacturer to make hospital gowns for medical centers in North Carolina and other states. In all, they have made more than a million gowns.
Lexine Merrill, Monroe; Critical Care Nurse
Merrill is a practicing critical care nurse with Atrium Health. In her third semester of nursing school, Merrill faced an unexpected medical bill and car repair that might have required her to drop out. She received a Finish Line Grant that allowed her to stay in school and complete her degree, which she has used to help people throughout the pandemic.
Lieutenant Colonel David Walliser, Raleigh; Lieutenant Colonel, North Carolina National Guard
Lieutenant Colonel Walliser served as the Senior Liaison Officer to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services for integration of North Carolina National Guard personnel and capabilities into the state’s plan to provide vaccinations to North Carolinians. He coordinated the assignments of 552 NC National Guard personnel to support 36 individual sites across North Carolina and made sure they were properly trained and ready to vaccinate the population.
Anderson “Andy” Warlick, Gastonia; CEO, Parkdale Mills
Warlick is the CEO and Vice Chair of Parkdale Mills, the leading maker of spun yarns and the largest swab manufacturer in the world. When the pandemic hit our state, Parkdale Mills worked to put a coalition of manufacturers together to begin making millions of masks for people across the country.
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