Chip Somodevilla/Getty Dr. Rochelle Walensky
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced it had issued a new eviction moratorium that would last until Oct. 3, in the wake of a previous moratorium expiring over the weekend.
The new moratorium, which will ban landlords from evicting tenants in only some parts of the country, came as the Biden administration faced intensifying criticism from progressives for allowing the earlier moratorium to expire on July 31. The White House, in its own defense, argued that its hands were tied due to a Supreme Court ruling.
Unlike the previous moratorium, which covered the entire country, the CDC's new ban applies only to "counties experiencing substantial and high levels of community transmission levels" of COVID-19. The agency said the new ban will last until Oct. 3.
POLITICO reports that the new ban, while more narrow than the previous moratorium, will cover 90 percent of the U.S. population.
Democrats and fair housing advocates expressed grave concerns due to the expiration of the first moratorium, which some estimates suggested would displace up to 11 million Americans from their homes.
The expiration of the ban on evictions also came with several other consequences, the risk to public health chief among them.
Speaking to PEOPLE, Emily Benfer, a professor of housing law at Wake Forest University, pointed to a study she co-authored which found that when eviction moratoria lifted in some parts of the country in the summer of 2020, those regions saw increased rates of COVID-19 infection and death. "And those spikes happen pretty quickly, within 3-6 weeks," Benfer said.
As Benfer explained, when a family faces housing displacement or eviction, they tend to move to overcrowded living environments: with friends and family, in to a homeless shelter, from couch to couch, or sleeping in a car and using public facilities throughout the day.
"All of these environments make it impossible to comply with CDC guidelines and because the COVID-19 virus doesn't show symptoms for the first few weeks, that can make it incredibly challenging to control the spread of the virus," she said.
While the White House had earlier said the federal government had no standing to extend the ban or instate a new one, the CDC relented following days of criticism, saying the uptick in COVID-19 cases put more Americans at risk.
"The emergence of the delta variant has led to a rapid acceleration of community transmission in the United States, putting more Americans at increased risk, especially if they are unvaccinated," CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said in a statement on Tuesday. "This moratorium is the right thing to do to keep people in their homes and out of congregate settings where COVID-19 spreads."
The new moratorium will allow renters additional time to apply for rent relief via state programs and to further increase vaccination rates prior to its expiration.