Cooper extends curfew, eviction moratorium
Posted January 27, 2021 6:29 a.m. EST
Updated January 27, 2021 5:48 p.m. EST
Raleigh, N.C. — Gov. Roy Cooper on Wednesday extended a nightly curfew, a moratorium on evictions and rules allowing restaurants and bars to serve mixed drinks to go as the coronavirus pandemic continues to rage across North Carolina.
The current orders covering all three are set to expire on Sunday, but new executive orders pushed that back to the end of February for the curfew and the end of March for evictions and to-go drinks.
"The virus is still raging through our communities," Cooper said at an afternoon news conference. "We still have work to do. We cannot let our guard down, especially in these cold winter months."
North Carolina reported another 139 coronavirus-related deaths on Wednesday, marking the fifth time in a week the figure has topped 100. The past week was the deadliest during the pandemic, with 715 deaths statewide.
Meanwhile, another 5,587 coronavirus infections were reported across the state on Wednesday, and 3,305 people were in hospitals with COVID-19.
Cooper and Dr. Mandy Cohen, secretary of the state Department of Health and Human Services, noted that North Carolina's virus trends have stabilized in recent days after a spike earlier in January. But the percentage of positive virus tests remains in double-digits – it's averaged 11.2 percent over the past week – far above the state's 5 percent target range.
"We are past the spike of the winter holidays, but we are still experiencing worrisome levels of virus," Cohen said.
The 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew was put in place in early December to keep people from hanging out in groups late into the night over the holidays, increasing the risk of coronavirus transmission. Most businesses are required to close at 10 p.m., and restaurants and bars must halt alcohol sales for on-site consumption by 9 p.m.
But restaurants can continue to fill takeout and delivery orders past 10 p.m., and Cooper issued a separate executive order last month allowing them to serve mixed drinks with those orders to make up for some of the revenue lost under the curfew.
Cooper said he chose different dates for the orders on the curfew and the to-go drinks to provide restaurant owners with some stability as state officials continue to monitor virus trends for any needed changes to safety protocols.
"We believe that this a good economic boost for those businesses that have really been struggling," he said. "We wanted to make sure that they had additional income during this period of time."
Along with the curfew, the statewide mask mandate, limits on mass gatherings and capacity restrictions for various businesses also remain in place.
Evictions have been on hold since last spring, as people affected by pandemic-related business closures struggle to pay their rent. President Joe Biden last week extended a similar nationwide moratorium on evictions through March.
"Keeping people in their homes is an important way to slow the spread of the virus," Cooper said.
Coronavirus vaccinations in NC
The moves come as North Carolina struggles not only with the spreading virus but also with efforts to vaccinate people against it.
North Carolina has distributed more than 99 percent of the first doses of coronavirus vaccine it has received from the federal government so far, Cooper said.
"The sticking point right now for our state and the nation is there's not enough vaccine," he said.
The limited supply has forced some counties to limit vaccination appointments in recent days.
Biden announced plans on Tuesday to boost weekly vaccine shipments to states by 16 percent over at least the next three weeks. Cooper said that added supply "will help, but we still need much more."
The governor encouraged counties to continue setting up appointments for vaccinations, focusing on health care workers and people age 65 or older, and to create waiting lists so that people are ready to get their shots as soon as the state has enough vaccine for them.
Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger criticized the state's "zig-zag" approach to vaccine distribution, saying officials should have taken existing appointments into account in making allotments instead of forcing the cancellation of those appointments.
“It’s just an indication that they’re making it up as they go along as opposed to planning things out and making sure that we have the best possible distribution plan," said Berger, R-Rockingham. "The way they’ve implemented it leaves a lot to be desired."
State lawmakers, who are back in session, may draft vaccine distribution legislation, he said, but for now, it remains in the hands of Cooper's administration.
WRAL Capitol Bureau Chief Laura Leslie contributed to this report.