Gov. Cooper signs order to limit evictions and protect renters
State officials again emphasized safety on Wednesday as North Carolina's coronavirus caseload continues to climb.Posted — Updated
Another 2,253 infections were reported Wednesday, bringing the statewide total during the pandemic to 266,136. Most of those people have since recovered, but 4,245 people have died across the state from COVID-19 over the past eight months.
For the 22nd day in a row, more than 1,000 people are hospitalized with COVID-19 in the state. The rolling average of daily hospitalizations is the highest it's been since coronavirus first appeared in North Carolina in early March.
The rolling, seven-day average of new cases is 2,221 per day over the last week, a new high, after three record days in a row.
Almost 7% of coronavirus tests taken in North Carolina come back positive.
"We know large gatherings can spread this virus rapidly, particularly when masks are ignored," Gov. Roy Cooper said.
But contact tracing has shown smaller gatherings, such as church groups, youth groups and extended family and friends, also pose a risk, Cooper said.
"We too often let our guard down when we're with people we know and trust, but knowing and trusting doesn't stop the virus," he said.
The governor and Dr. Mandy Cohen, secretary of the state Department of Health and Human Services, urged people to wear masks, practice social distancing and frequently wash hands whenever they're with people who don't live in their home.
"Let's work together to protect our families and neighbors in these settings," Cohen said. "If you do meet in person, please take steps to keep everyone as safe as possible,"
Officials said they don't have evidence linking the surging number of infections to the relaxation of pandemic-related restrictions at the beginning of the month, allowing bars to serve limited numbers of people outdoors and movie theaters and indoor event venues to reopen at reduced capacity.
Cooper also passed on a chance to pin the higher numbers on President Donald Trump's large, in-person campaign rallies, where most people are crowded together and not wearing masks. He noted that the virus is spreading rapidly among whites and in rural areas – Trump has recently visited Lumberton, Gastonia and Greenville – and bemoaned the fact that the president doesn't follow the advice of the White House Coronavirus Task Force.
Cooper also announced he signed a new executive order to prevent evictions for people who can't make their utility or rent payments during the pandemic.
The order is an extension of N.C. Hope Initiative, which provides renters who are at 80% or less of the median income in their county with up to six months of back rent and utility payments. The money is paid directly to their landlords and utility providers.
According to Cooper, roughly 300,000 to 400,000 households across North Carolina are currently unable to pay rent.
"Many families are trying to do the right thing," Cooper said. "They're having to make tough choices, but this virus has made it difficult ... Let's remember that our economy will only be as strong as our efforts to stamp out this virus. A recovery depends on elected officials and everybody else taking this virus seriously and doing our part to prevent the spread. As we work toward a vaccine and more effective treatments, I believe a safe and effective vaccine will come and that treatments for those who get sick will get better."
Free virus testing available in Wake County
Even if someone does not feel sick, they could still have the virus. Research suggests that about half of all transmission events can be traced back to individuals still in the so-called pre-symptomatic stage, before they start to feel ill. Some people will never develop symptoms of the virus, health officials said.
If someone has had close contact with another person who has tested positive for the coronavirus, they should quarantine for 14 days and get tested, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. People who have been in large crowds or gatherings should also get tested.
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