As predicted, the post-holiday surge has hit North Carolina hard. 

In response, Governor Roy Cooper extended the state’s modified stay-at-home order Wednesday, mandating residents remain in their homes between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m.

The current order was set to expire on January 8. It will now extend through January 29. 

“A new highly contagious strain of the virus has been detected in the United States and we need to act as if it’s already here in North Carolina,” Cooper said during a press conference. 

The latest numbers are grim. As of Wednesday, the state has a nearly 18 percent positive test rate. More than 582,000 people have contracted the virus and 7,076 people have died. Nearly 3,900 people are currently hospitalized with the virus.

Along with the extended stay-at-home order, the state’s other restrictions on gatherings stay in place. Retailers and restaurants must continue to limit capacity and on-site alcohol sales must cease after 9 p.m. 

Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Mandy Cohen said that almost the entire state is in the “red zone,” with substantial spread of the virus. 

“There’s an alarming amount of virus everywhere in our state,” Cohen said. “We don’t think we’ve fully seen the impact of the holidays yet.”

Because of the surge, Cohen said there’s a good chance folks already have the virus and may not know it. 

While the state is continuing its rollout of the vaccine, it won’t be available to the majority of residents for many months.

“It will eventually be our best medical weapon against this deadly pandemic, but as we said, it will take many months to get there,” Cooper said. “Until then, we have to follow the data and use our best prevention tools to slow the spread of the virus.”

Cooper and Cohen noted that some people have turned down vaccination when it is their turn. They both assured residents that the vaccine is safe.

“You cannot get COVID-19 from the vaccine,” Cohen said. 

Cohen encouraged residents to stay home unless they’re traveling to work or going to the grocery store. 

“There has never been a more important time to take this seriously,” Cooper said. “We’re all longing for the way things used to be. If we wear our masks and avoid risky activities, we’ll get to the other side faster. Let’s work together and rise to this challenge faster.” 

Meanwhile, state officials are deploying the National Guard to help with COVID vaccine distribution across North Carolina. So far, nearly 110,000 residents have received doses of either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine. 

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