DAVIDSON COUNTY — The state’s moratorium on evictions was extended to Jan. 31 last week by Gov. Roy Cooper, who says his executive order is the latest in a series of decisions intended to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

This extension of the moratorium was intended to help those in North Carolina affected by the economic crisis created by the pandemic remain in their homes. This decision at the state level followed a measure by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to postpone evictions at the federal level starting in September.

Cooper also reiterated the warning provided by the White House Coronavirus Task Force to anyone over the age of 65, suggesting that these high-risk segments of the population have groceries and medicines delivered to their homes. The encouragement not to go to the store for senior adults is particularly in place for indoor settings where anyone is not wearing a mask.

N.C. Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen said that anyone who attended a Christmas gathering of people from outside their own household must assume they were infected and are encouraged to be tested immediately.

Cooper and Cohen also announced a slightly revised priority order for providing vaccinations, and they stated that they are working with medical licensing groups to develop sanctions for anyone who issues vaccines outside of that order.

“Everyone has a spot to take their shot,” Cohen said. “The first phase is focused on protecting healthcare workers caring for patients with COVID-19, protecting people who are at the highest risk of being hospitalized or dying and protecting those at highest risk of exposure to COVID-19.”

North Carolina was reportedly receiving about 120,000 doses of vaccine each week, Cohen said. It “could be well into the spring” before any vaccinations are available for people who do not fall into any of the higher-priority categories, she said.

The first phase of vaccinations, Phase 1a, began last week and targets those working directly with COVID-19 patients or administering the vaccine, as well as staff and residents of long-term-care facilities. Cohen said Phase 1b could begin next week, but in most places would begin the week of Jan. 11, starting with people 75 and older regardless of health status.

A second group in this phase includes health care and “frontline essential workers” who are 50 or older. A third group is all other health care or frontline essential workers.

The CDC defines frontline essential workers as first-responders, corrections officers, food and agricultural workers, U.S. Postal Service workers, manufacturing workers, grocery store workers, public transit workers, teachers and education support staff members, and child care workers.

Phase 2 includes other adults at high risk of exposure and at least some increased risk of severe complications from COVID-19; jail or prison inmates; others living in group living settings; and essential workers who have not already been vaccinated.

Phase 3 is for K-12 and college students, and Phase 4 is everyone else.

Cooper also announced the state is reopening a rental assistance program that is about to receive an influx of federal money. North Carolina will receive $700 million in federal funds for rental assistance, which is allowing the state to accept new applications for the N.C. Housing Opportunities and Prevention of Evictions program, Cooper said.

The HOPE program, which provides direct payments to landlords and utility providers, stopped accepting applications in November because the $37.4 million the program had was exhausted.

Staff writer Daniel Kennedy can be reached at 336-888-3578, or at kennedy@tvilletimes.com.

Staff writer Daniel Kennedy can be reached at 336-888-3578, or at kennedy@tvilletimes.com.