Bob Luddy wants a return to normalcy, ASAP

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Bob Luddy has been among North Carolina’s most outspoken conservatives for decades, having helped finance various political campaigns and organizations. He’s also among the state’s most successful entrepreneurs, having built Raleigh-based CaptiveAire Systems into a 1,450-employee company with seven manufacturing plants while also helping start charter schools that enroll 5,000 students at about a dozen campuses.

He is incensed about how public health officials are handling the coronavirus pandemic, prompting him to write a stinging letter addressed to Gov. Roy Cooper that was published this week by The American Spectator, a conservative publication.

Luddy contends the state’s response has been badly handled, causing excessive economic harm. “For every COVID-19 case in North Carolina (4,500 estimated), 125 people have lost their jobs (500,000 unemployed across the state),” he wrote in the letter. “Your executive orders have quarantined healthy individuals for the first time in American history. Small businesses can no longer operate, and their employees are jobless. This may be a solution for your medical advisers, but the results are now devastating nearly every facet of our society.”

He adds, “Your plan is to save us from COVID-19 based on virtually no data and death projections that were wildly overstated and are now being revised downward by the medical community. In the process, quality of life as we know it is rapidly declining, and thousands are without jobs.”

Luddy is urging the governor to allow all healthy workers to return to their jobs. “Your claim that your restrictions have slowed the virus may be valid, but the virus will not disappear because we stayed home. It is clear we have experienced almost a complete loss of freedom. By the end of this quarantine, our jobs and our way of life will have been decimated. No amount of government money or programs can repair a fragile, interdependent network that took hardworking people decades to build.”

In an interview, Luddy said his letter has sparked “an unbelievable, absolutely overwhelming response that has been amazingly positive.” Luddy says his views are shaped by his personal experience: None of his employees or students, totaling more than 6,500 people, have been diagnosed with COVID-19.

I asked Luddy if his reaction stems from the near collapse of the restaurant industry, which is a key sector for his business, which makes ventilation systems. He noted that he’s laid off about 200 employees, or less than a fifth of his total payroll, and that he has other customer groups that continue to place orders.

Relying on public health experts has inevitable limits, he contends. “With any technical expert, advice has to be taken into context. They have repeatedly made rash, wild speculations which have proven wrong. That is highly unscientific. The last thing you want to do is scare people into a full-blown paranoia, which is what has happened.”

Luddy contends a “protected class” of government and health care industry leaders have misjudged the costs of the economic shutdown for millions of Americans. “If the governor really cared about these adverse impacts, he wouldn’t be talking about shutting the state down for more weeks and months.”

Though he and Cooper have both worked in Wake County for decades, Luddy says he’s never met the governor. But he did send five copies of his letter via FedEx to the governor’s mansion yesterday.

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