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5 Things To Know: Charlotte-Mecklenburg May See Mask Mandate Return

…and four more stories from Aug. 8-14, 2021

mask mandate
Mayor Vi Lyles walked back claims made at a press conference on Tuesday that she had no authority to issue a mask mandate. (Photo by David Flower)

Mecklenburg County May See Mask Mandate on Monday

Mecklenburg County‘s Policy Group will meet on Monday, Aug. 16, to discuss potential changes to local policies in regards to COVID-19, namely whether a new mask mandate will be issued in the city and/or county.

The Policy Group is part of the incident management structure of the National Incident Management System and consists of representatives from stakeholder agencies and organizations. It is established and organized to assist in making cooperative multiagency decisions.  Monday’s meeting will be held in private, though Queen City Nerve has joined with 12 other news outlets in calling on the county to open it up to the public. 

The meeting comes on the heels of a controversy that began during a press conference from Mayor Vi Lyles on Tuesday in which she stumbled on a question around whether the city planned to issue its own mask mandate. Lyles claimed that neither she nor the city manager’s office had the authority to mandate mask requirements for the city, a claim later challenged by the North Carolina Department of Health & Human Services. 

“Cities and counties may implement certain protective measures, including mask mandates, during a local state of emergency declared by a municipality or county pursuant to the Emergency Management Act,” NCDHHS spokesperson Catie Armstrong said in a statement to WSOC. Following the statement, the mayor’s office said Lyles would have to declare a local state of emergency in order to then issue a mask mandate, another claim she later walked back, as Charlotte is already in a state of emergency. 

In her final statement on the issue, Lyles wrote: “Throughout this entire COVID-19 pandemic, we have listened to the experts and taken recommendations and guidance from the Public Health Department and Policy Group. It is important that the entire Charlotte-Mecklenburg region work together to battle COVID-19. At this time, we have not received a recommendation to reinstitute the mask mandate. If we do get that recommendation, I along with the Mayors and other elected officials will discuss and consider that recommendation, which is consistent with the approach that we’ve taken throughout the pandemic.”

Following the Policy Group meeting on Monday, which is closed to the public as of the time this is being written, county leaders and health officials will hold a press conference to discuss what recommendations came from it. 

COVID Metrics Continue to Rise

According to the most recent data from MCPH released Friday, there had been 125,575 total cases of COVID-19 among county residents and 1,006 deaths up to that point. That is an increase of 3,783 cases and six deaths since the same time last week. More in-depth data for cases that had occurred up to Wednesday showed all metrics on the rise, with an average of 473 laboratory confirmed infections reported per day over the past week compared to 433 confirmed infections per day in the previous two weeks.

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A per-capita look at new COVID-19 cases by zip code shows where the trouble areas are. (Graph courtesy of MCPH)

There were also an average of 260 people hospitalized due to COVID-19 on any given day over the past week, nearly a 100-person increase from last week’s average, and an average test-positivity rate of 13%, also an increasing trend. 

MCPH also reported on Friday that 54% of the total population of Mecklenburg County (604,370 residents) had been at least partially vaccinated as of Wednesday, while 50% of Mecklenburg County’s total population (555,257 residents) had been fully vaccinated. 

County Releases Recovery and Renewal Recommendations 

Despite the fact that the Delta variant is still tearing through our community, the county is ready to start thinking about the future, as the Mecklenburg County COVID-19 Recovery and Renewal Task Force released draft recommended actions for community recovery and renewal from the continuing impacts of COVID-19 this week. 

The task force is recommending implementation of more than 50 strategies and specific actions within the areas of health, economy and community, but before presenting those recommendations to the Mecklenburg Board of County Commissioners on Sept. 7, they are holding a series of town hall meetings in the coming weeks to discuss the recommendations and solicit community feedback.

“COVID-19 has disproportionately impacted some residents of our community and has exacerbated the historic effects of racial, ethnic and economic inequities,” said task force co-chairs Victoria Avramovic and Dr. Jerome Williams, Jr., MD, in a release on Friday. “Effective recovery and renewal efforts in Mecklenburg County should address these inequities. We must not return to business as usual.”

The meetings will be held on Tuesdays and Thursdays in the next two weeks, and you can learn more specifics at the county website

CMS Sends Out Email With Students’ Private Info

A Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools staff member accidentally sent out an email to hundreds of parents on Friday that included the private information of more than 3,000 students, including names, addresses, and medical information such as mental-health history and allergies.

The email was reportedly sent to families enrolled in the district’s after-school enrichment programs. A follow-up email to the families of affected students reportedly read, “We take very seriously our responsibility to properly manage data and to keep information confidential, and we apologize for this error and any inconvenience caused.”

Mecklenburg County No Longer the Biggest in the State

The much-anticipated data from the Census 2020 was released this week, and North Carolina will pick up another congressional seat. One statistic that stuck out to local residents more than their representation in Congress was this: Wake County is now the most populous county in the state, finally surpassing Mecklenburg County after years of catching up. According to the data released Thursday by the U.S. Census Bureau, Mecklenburg County came in second with 1,115,482 residents compared to Wake’s 1,129,410 people.

Charlotte reportedly grew by 1.41% between 2019 and 2020, while Wake grew by 1.75%. Though Mecklenburg and Wake make up 20% of North Carolina’s population, they are not the fastest-growing counties in the state. That title goes to Brunswick County (4.2%) on the southeastern coast and Currituck County (4.1%) on the northeastern coast. 

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