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North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper speaks during a debate with Lt. Gov. Dan Forest on Oct. 14, 2020. North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper speaks during a debate with Lt. Gov. Dan Forest on Oct. 14, 2020.

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper speaks during a debate with Lt. Gov. Dan Forest on Oct. 14, 2020.

Paul Specht
By Paul Specht October 15, 2020

Roy Cooper compares Georgia's COVID-19 numbers to North Carolina

If Your Time is short

  • North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper said Georgia has “almost 100,000 more cases, almost twice as many deaths and almost 600 more nursing home deaths than North Carolina.”
  • On the night of the debate, data from each state’s health department showed Georgia with about 98,100 more cases and nearly twice as many deaths.
  • According to U.S. CMS data, Georgia also had 569 more nursing home deaths than North Carolina.

Roy Cooper and Dan Forest agree that North Carolina’s coronavirus response stands out among southern states.

But the gubernatorial candidates disagree over whether that’s a good thing.

Democratic Gov. Cooper and Republican Lt. Gov. Forest squared off on Wednesday night for North Carolina’s only gubernatorial debate of the year. At one point in the debate, Forest praised North Carolina’s border states for allowing many businesses to reopen while their respective governments addressed the coronavirus outbreak.

"This COVID science is an interesting thing because you cross the border into South Carolina and South Carolina’s open and people are out there going to restaurants and doing things," Forest said. "You cross into Tennessee and Tennessee is open, you cross into Georgia and Georgia is open. They’re learning how to live with the virus and protect the vulnerable and get people back to work."

Cooper immediately offered a comparison between North Carolina and Georgia.

"It’s interesting that Dan mentions Georgia … He wants to be like Georgia," Cooper said. "Georgia is about the same size as North Carolina, yet they have almost 100,000 more cases, almost twice as many deaths and almost 600 more nursing home deaths than North Carolina."

Cooper is right about the sizes of North Carolina and Georgia. Georgia is the eighth most populous state in the U.S. and North Carolina is the ninth most populous, according to 2019 census data. The states are separated by fewer than 130,000 people.

So what about those stats Cooper mentioned?

Cooper spokeswoman Liz Doherty referred us to a coronavirus tracker on the New York Times website and nursing home data on the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services website. PolitiFact North Carolina also looked at information on the North Carolina and Georgia state websites.

Case counts vary a little bit, depending on the source. But otherwise, Cooper is mostly spot-on.

Comparing cases

Cooper said Georgia has almost 100,000 more cases than North Carolina. On the night of the debate, data from each state’s health department showed Georgia with about 98,100 more cases. So Cooper’s not far off. 

North Carolina’s health department reported 236,407 confirmed cases and Georgia’s health department reported 334,601 cases. 

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The New York Times map showed 236,810 cases for North Carolina and 319,609 total cases for Georgia, for a difference of about 82,800.

Cooper didn’t compare each state’s infection numbers to its population. But that statistic provides useful context.

The night of the debate, the New York Times’ reported that North Carolina had 2,258 cases per 100,000 residents and Georgia had 3,010 cases per 100,000 residents.

Comparing deaths

Cooper said Georgia had "almost twice as many deaths" as North Carolina. This claim is on track too.

On the night of the debate, North Carolina’s health department reported 3,856 total deaths. Twice that many would be 7,712 deaths. Georgia’s health department reported 7,470 total deaths. 

The Times, meanwhile, reported 3,882 total deaths in North Carolina (a rate of 37 deaths per 100,000 residents) and 7,298 total deaths in Georgia (meaning 69 deaths per 100,000 people.)

So if you look at total deaths, the Times and the NC health department both show there have been about 3,800. Georgia is 200 to 400 deaths away from having twice as many. 

Nursing homes

Finally, let’s look at nursing homes.

Cooper said Georgia has had almost 600 more nursing home deaths than North Carolina. On debate night, data tracked by the federal government showed Georgia having 569 more nursing home deaths than North Carolina.

CMS reported 1,328 nursing home deaths in North Carolina and 1,897 in Georgia.

Cooper didn’t mention nursing home cases. To round out the full picture, we’ll report them anyway.

On the night of the debate, CMS reported 6,523 total nursing home cases in North Carolina and 9,483 total cases in Georgia.

Our ruling

Cooper said Georgia has "almost 100,000 more cases, almost twice as many deaths and almost 600 more nursing home deaths than North Carolina."

His claim about cases requires the most rounding, but isn’t far off. But his claim about deaths — in total and in nursing homes — are spot-on. We rate this claim True.

Our Sources

Video by WRAL, "Cooper, Forest engage in lone gubernatorial debate," posted Oct. 15, 2020.

Email correspondence with Liz Doherty, spokeswoman for the Roy Cooper campaign.

Press release by the U.S. Census Bureau, "2019 population estimates continue to show nation’s growth is slowing," posted Dec. 30, 2019.

Story and graphics by the New York Times, "Covid in the U.S.: Latest map and case county."

Data on COVID-19 in nursing homes across the United States posted online by the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

Data on COVID-19 in Georgia posted online by the Georgia Department of Public Health.

Data on COVID-19 in North Carolina posted online by the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services.

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Roy Cooper compares Georgia's COVID-19 numbers to North Carolina

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