Gov. Roy Cooper

Gov. Roy Cooper held a news conference on Wednesday about the latest COVID-19 numbers and also signed Executive Order No. 171.

Gov. Roy Cooper cited the latest numbers in COVID-19 during a live news conference Wednesday.

According to the NC Department of Health and Human Services on Wednesday, there are 266,136 cases: 255,693 molecular (PCR) positive cases and 10,443 antigen positive cases; 3,912,599 completed tests; 1,193 hospitalized; and 4,245 deaths: 4,176 molecular (PCR) positive cases, and 69 antigen positive cases.

“We remember all of those we have lost and keep them and their families in our prayers,” Cooper said.

High case counts and hospitalizations as the virus continues to spread throughout the state, are coming from some large gatherings particularly when masks are ignored, he stated.

“Also, much is coming from smaller family gatherings — we too often let our guard down when we are with people we know and trust,” he said.

For folks gathering with anyone not living in their households, each party is at risk, Cooper said.

“Wear a mask and practice social distancing,” he said. “It means you care about each other.”

As the pandemic continues, many families are facing economic hardships.

Gov. Cooper referenced data from a report, “Analysis of Current and Expected Rental Shortfall and Potential Evictions in the U.S.,” available at bit.ly/34zri8S, from the N.C. Council of State Housing Agencies, that reads approximately 300,000 — 410,000 households across the state are unable to pay rent, and an estimated 240,000 eviction filings will be submitted by January 2021.

“Therefore, today, I have signed a new Executive Order [171] to prevent evictions in North Carolina for people who can’t afford the rent,” he said. “The result during this global pandemic will be more North Carolinians staying in their homes, more landlords getting paid rent, and fewer utility companies shutting off power.”

The order, available at bit.ly/3e5CblV, requires landlords to make residential tenants aware of their rights under the CDC [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] Order. For eviction actions commencing after Executive Order No. 171, landlords must give residents the option to fill out a declaration form before starting any eviction action. The Order also sets forth procedures to ensure protection for residential tenants once they provide the required declaration form to the court or to the landlord.

“This order makes it clear the CDC moratorium applies to all eligible north Carolinians, not just those in subsidized housing,” he said.

In addition, Cooper said two weeks ago he launched the NC HOPE program that provides assistance to eligible low-and-moderate income renters experiencing financial hardship due to the pandemic by making direct payments to landlords and utility companies. As of Wednesday, this program has received 22,800 eligible applications, Cooper said.

“Each one of those represents a family on the edge having to face hardships,” he said. “How many still face eviction?”

Given the demand for assistance shown over the last two weeks, the state will continue working to boost the HOPE program so it can help more North Carolinians make ends meet, he said.

To apply, call 2-1-1 or visit nc211.org/hope.

“Our economy will only be as strong as our efforts to stamp out this virus, taking it seriously and doing our part as we work toward a vaccine,” Cooper said. “I believe a safe and effective vaccine will come, in the meantime let’s save lives while making our economy stronger by wearing a mask, washing our hands and waiting. If we do this, we can get through this. Let’s keep taking care of each other and let our resilience take center stage. There is light at the end of the tunnel.”