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Gov. Roy Cooper issued a statewide order Tuesday that prohibits utility providers from shutting off services to people who are unable to pay during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Cooper’s order applies to electric, gas, water and wastewater services for the next 60 days, Cooper announced during Tuesday’s afternoon press conference.
The order also directs utilities to give residential customers at least six months to pay outstanding bills and prohibits them from collecting fees, penalties or interest for late payments.
Cooper also said telecommunication companies that provide phone, cable and internet services are strongly urged to follow the same rules.
“This action is particularly important since tomorrow is the first of the month, and I know that’s a date many families fear when they can’t make ends meet,” Cooper said. “These protections will help families stay in their homes and keep vital services like electricity, water and communications going as we stay at home.”
The Wilson City Council on Thursday passed a similar policy that discontinued disconnections for electric customers who have lost a job in COVID-19’s wake. The Wilson Energy policy was set to expire on April 17, but not allow disconnection for 30 days following the lifting of the city ordinance.
“Today, Governor Cooper issued an executive order covering residential utility shut-offs,” said Rebecca Agner, Wilson communications and marketing director. “The city is reviewing the governor’s order and will make adjustments to our policy as needed.”
Cooper’s order also encourages banks to stop charging overdraft fees, late fees and other penalties. Landlords are also strongly encouraged in the order to “follow the spirit” of N.C. Supreme Court Chief Justice Cheri Beasley’s order and delay any evictions that are already entered in the court system.
The N.C. Department of Revenue also expanded tax relief measures Tuesday, waiving penalties for late filing or payments of multiple state tax categories.
15 WILSON COUNTY CASES
Wilson County officials announced two more positive cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, bringing the total to 15. Seven patients are hospitalized and five people have recovered, according to Wilson County Health Director Teresa Ellen.
Since testing began, the Wilson County Health Department conducted 112 coronavirus screenings that met the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines for testing, Ellen said. That number does not include tests conducted by health care providers. Wilson County public health officials only receive notifications when those tests return positive results.
There have been eight COVID-19-associated deaths in North Carolina, according to the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services’ Tuesday figures.
Of the nearly 1,500 positive cases, 43% of patients are between the ages of 25 and 49; 26% are between the ages of 50 and 64; 19% were 65 and older and 11% were between the ages of 18-24.
There are currently 157 hospitalizations associated with the coronavirus, an increase from Monday, according to state figures.