State of the State Stories
Tonight, Governor Roy Cooper will share his third State of the State address, recognizing the resilience of North Carolinians throughout the pandemic and offering a vision for a shared recovery that rebuilds our economy and communities to be stronger than ever. In his remarks, the Governor will highlight the experiences of North Carolinians across the state who stepped up to help their communities respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.
While COVID-19 precautions won’t allow for these guests to be present for the address, Governor Cooper spoke with them via Zoom and thanked them for their contributions and examples to North Carolina.
Felecia Young, of Salisbury; Sixth Grade Math Teacher at Knox Middle School
Mrs. Young is a sixth-grade math teacher at Knox Middle School. She continues to be recognized for her commitment to the wellbeing of her students. Mrs. Young has also introduced innovative lessons through platforms such as Tik Tok to keep her math students engaged despite the many challenges that remote learning presented. She was nominated as a “Teacher Hero of COVID-19” for her dedication and creativity. Mrs. Young has been in schools for 20 years, returning to the classroom after being an administrator noting that “the classroom is my first love.” She continues to build genuine relationships with her students and their families, who now call here “Mama Young.”
Dr. Karen Smith, of Raeford; Provider at Independent Family Practice
Dr. Karen Smith responded to the pandemic rapidly by creating telehealth opportunities for her patients. Recognizing that many in her community do not have access to the internet or devices for personal use, she and her team provided tablet devices for her patients to use in the office’s parking lot, where they could be connected to the office’s extended Wi-Fi signal in the parking lot, and staff provided tablet devices for use in the car to complete telehealth visits. This innovative decision protected her patients and staff in the height of the pandemic, and minimized exposures and the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) at a time when there was a national shortage.
Cecil Conrad, of Lexington; Owner of The Barbecue Center
The Barbecue 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 Barbecue Center was a recipient of the Mortgage, Utility, and Rent Relief (MURR) funding. These funds were critical to helping the restaurant stay afloat, 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, of Clayton; ; Owner of The Little Believers Academy
Throughout the pandemic, Cassandra Brooks kept her child care centers in Clayton and Garner open, 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, of New Bern; Nurse at CarolinaEast Medical Center
Natesha Fields is an Associate Managers in the Emergency Department at CarolinaEast Medical Center in New Bern and single mother. Natesha started at CEMC in July of 2015 as a new graduate registered nurse and worked her way up to a leadership position in a few short years. As an Associate Manager in the Emergency Department during the pandemic, Natesha staffed the floor and cared for patients 36–48 hours a week, and sometimes more. She has navigated changes PPE shortages and all of the unknowns that COVID-19 has brought while running the Emergency Department and ensuring her staff and patients were safe.
Chris Morris,s of High Point; President, Custom Contract Furnishings
Chris Morris is the president of Custom Contract Furnishing in High Point. Early in the pandemic, he partnered with fabrics manufacturer PFG Furniture in Greensboro to make hospital gowns for medical centers across North Carolina, Georgia and Connecticut. He has made more than a million gowns and hired 50 more staff members to make this happen.
Lexine Merrill, of Monroe; Critical Care Nurse
Lexine Merrill is a practicing critical care nurse with Atrium Health who earned her associate’s degree in Nursing in December 2020 from Central Piedmont Community College. In her third semester of nursing school she faced an unexpected medical bill and car repair that would have required her to drop out. She received a Finish Line Grant that allowed her to stay in school and complete her nursing degree, which she has used to help keep people safe throughout the pandemic.
Lieutenant Colonel David Walliser, of Raleigh; Lieutenant Colonel, North Carolina National Guard
Lieutenant Colonel David 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. Most notably, LTC Walliser was instrumental in the set-up of the Federal Community Vaccination Center in Greensboro that has distributed more than 100,000 vaccines. He coordinated efforts to establish the site and prepare it for people to easily get their shot.
Anderson “Andy” Warlick, of Gastonia; CEO, Parkdale Mills
Andy Warlick is the CEO and Vice Chair of Parkdale Mills, the leading maker of spun yarns and largest swab manufacturer in the world. When the pandemic hit North Carolina, his company worked to put a coalition of manufacturers together to begin making millions of masks for people across the country. Parkdale Mills also made testing swabs and delivered almost 400 million as well as supplying the government with reusable gowns. Most recently, the company received an order from the Biden administration to produce 25 million reusable masks for service delivery organizations including soup kitchens, homeless shelters and additional places that needed it.