Governor Roy Cooper extended North Carolina’s eviction moratorium through January 31 in an effort to contain the spread of COVID-19 and allow those struggling financially to stay in their homes.

“This order will help them stay in their homes, which is essential for slowing the spread of the virus,” Cooper said during a Wednesday press conference. 

As of December 30, the state has recorded more than 532,000 cases of the virus, with more than 8,551 new cases reported Wednesday. There are currently more than 3,339 people in the hospital fighting the virus and more than 6,729 people have died in North Carolina.

The state is also seeing a record-high percentage of people testing positive for the virus, which was nearly 15 percent as of this week. That’s almost triple the rates we saw just a few months ago.

“Although overall testing was down over the Christmas holidays, we saw the highest number of people in the hospital and a record number of percent-positive,” Cooper said.

Although North Carolinians are just starting to be vaccinated, Cooper said residents must remain vigilant and wear masks anytime they are in an indoor space outside the home. High-risk individuals are recommended to have groceries and prescriptions delivered if they are able. 

“We must take these recommendations from the White House and all safety precautions seriously,” Cooper said. “As our fatality numbers show starkly, this is a matter of life or death.” 

The state is currently in its first phase of the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, which will administer vaccines to healthcare workers and residents as long-term care facilities, Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Mandy Cohen said. 

The state expects to move into the second group of vaccinations early next year. That will include vaccines for any person 75 or older and frontline and essential workers over age 50, such as school teachers, Cohen said. The next group to get vaccines will be healthcare and frontline essential workers of any age. 

The second phase of vaccines will also include individuals age 65 and older and those with high-risk medical conditions. 

Everyone else will likely have to wait for several months. 

“With the limited supply of the vaccine, we think this could be well into the spring,” Cohen said. 

“We have to seize our resolve and make it last,” Cooper said. 

The state’s modified stay-at-home order remains in place, banning travel outside the home from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m.. Restaurants are still ordered to close by 10 p.m. and cease alcohol sales by 9 p.m.

“Our collective New Year’s resolution should be keeping each other safe in 2021,” Cooper said. 

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