Gov. Roy Cooper extended North Carolina's modified stay-at-home order by three weeks Wednesday.
The order that requires North Carolinians to stay home from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. except for essential needs or activity was set to expire Friday. The state also is under a mask mandate, but COVID-19 cases have continued to increase.
“We have turned the page on a new year – one that we're hoping will bring better times. But as we know, the virus didn't disappear at midnight on Dec. 31,” Cooper said. “In fact, in North Carolina, we have seen some of our highest case counts, percent positives, hospitalizations and ICU bed usage numbers in the past few days. No matter where you live, work, worship or play, COVID-19 remains a deadly threat, and we must treat it that way.”
Cooper's COVID-19 orders have received criticism, especially from business owners. A group of bar owners have filed a lawsuit against Cooper and the state, claiming the orders have made it unprofitable for them to operate. The plaintiffs own businesses in various counties across the state, and some of them have closed permanently because of the orders, according to the lawsuit filed late last month.
Under the modified stay-at-home order, businesses cannot serve or sell alcohol between 9 p.m. and 7 a.m. Restaurants, bars, entertainment venues and personal care businesses must close at 10 p.m. All outdoor gatherings must end by the 10 p.m. curfew. Cooper signed an executive order Dec. 22, one day after the lawsuit was filed, that allows some North Carolina businesses to sell to-go or delivery cocktails.
The stay-at-home order is set to expire Jan. 29.
North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen also issued a secretarial directive Wednesday, doubling down on the safety precautions.
“We are in a very dangerous position,” Cohen said. “North Carolinians need to take immediate actions to save lives, slow the spread of the virus, and protect hospital capacity so that medical care is available to anyone who may need it, whether for COVID-19 or for any other reason.”
Despite critical community spread in 89 out of the state's 100 counties, North Carolina has been slow in administering the COVID-19 vaccine, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention daily tracker shows.
The federal government sent nearly 400,000 doses of vaccines to North Carolina in late December. The state has given the first dose to 137,198 per 100,000 people, the CDC reported Wednesday. Cohen said the state disbursed the vaccines to all counties, but some health departments need operational support.
The CDC tracker shows 4,755 per 100,000 doses have been distributed in the state. Cooper deployed 50 North Carolina National Guard personnel Tuesday to help local health departments administer vaccines and offer logistical support. Cohen said the state is working with local health departments to help them ramp up vaccinations.
“We're just a couple of weeks into this, and, of course, this happened over the holidays,” Cohen said. “So, I think folks are hitting their stride now and figuring out their operations. Some are doing terrific and are up and running fast. Others need support.”
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