News & OpinionWeekly News Roundup

5 Things To Know: Unvaccinated Patients To Blame for COVID Spike

…and four more stories from July 11-17, 2021

unvaccinated COVID
Gibbie Harris spoke on Friday about how unvaccinated people have made up a majority of new COVID-19 cases.

Vast Majority of New COVID-19 Patients Are Unvaccinated

Mecklenburg County Public Health Director Gibbie Harris held a press conference on Friday, during which she confirmed that Mecklenburg County has seen a rise in COVID-19 cases, and that most people who tested positive were unvaccinated. 

“All of our numbers are going in the wrong direction,” said Harris, who pointed out that the average age of people testing positive for COVID-19 is going down. According to Harris, about 71% of new cases reported over the past week have been in people younger than 30 years old, most of whom are unvaccinated for COVID. 

These stats can be attributed in part to the higher rates of older people who have taken the COVID-19 vaccine, which also helps prevent contraction of and curb symptoms from the Delta variant, which Harris confirmed is spreading in the county. She repeatedly emphasized that the majority of people testing positive for COVID-19 are unvaccinated. 

“The message here is to get vaccinated. That is what is going to get us out of this pandemic,” Harris said on Friday, adding that those who have not yet been vaccinated should be wearing a mask in public places. 

Megan Rivers with Novant Health tweeted similar sentiments on Friday, stating that the company’s hospitals are seeing an increase in COVID-19 cases, particularly in communities with lower vaccination rates. “In fact, almost all of the COVID-19 patients in our hospitals today are not vaccinated and the average age of admitted patients is at its lowest,” she wrote. 

In recent weeks, MCPH has partnered with StarMed Healthcare and UNC Charlotte to carry out genetic-sequencing tests to track the Delta variant, believed to be more contagious than the original coronavirus strain. Harris said the Delta variant made up a majority of cases in a recent outbreak at a local homeless shelter. According to StarMed Healthcare, 62% of positive cases uncovered by the company’s testing process have involved the Delta variant. 

Harris stated on Friday that, though many metrics are seeing a slight uptick, the county is far from seeing anything that would make officials consider more shutdowns or restrictions. 

CMPD Releases Footage of Destructive 2020 SWAT Incident

A Superior Court judge authorized the release of hours of body-camera footage related to an incident that occurred in July 2020 during which a CMPD SWAT team deployed pepper spray and nearly destroyed the home of the London family. The team was looking for 19-year-old Trey McClendon, acting on tips from neighbors of the Londons, who lived on Andora Drive in the Hickory Ridge neighborhood in east Charlotte.

According to a press release from the Freedmen Law Group, members of the London family stated they had looked forward to the release of footage. “We expect the video evidence to corroborate what the family has been saying all along: that the destruction of their house was an unnecessary military exercise and an unlawful violation of their constitutional rights,” the Freedmen Law Group statement release read. 

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Body-cam footage depicted officers searching for their suspect in an empty home.

During a press conference that followed the release of the footage on Friday, CMPD Capt. Jonathan Thomas said he believed the videos — 88 were released in total — showed officers working in a professional manner “that inspires confidence in the community.” He pointed out that McClendon had been arrested at the London residence in January 2020 and was a “known associate” of the family. 

In the Freedmen Law Group statement, the London family emphasized that they told officers repeatedly that McClendon was not in or anywhere near the residence throughout the seven-hour ordeal last July. Attorneys with Freedmen Law Group on Friday stated that not all video footage related to the Andora Drive incident had been released yet. 

“The City of Charlotte has not made this family whole and they are still recovering from their displacement,” the statement continued. “This ‘learning incident’ as former Deputy Chief Estella Patterson put it, should not be forgotten by this city, and will never be forgotten by the London family. ” 

Atrium Health Announces New Hospital for Lake Norman

Atrium Health announced on Monday that a new, 30-bed hospital will soon be built in Cornelius, as state officials have approved a certificate of need request from the health-care company to construct a 160,000-square-foot facility at the southwest corner of the intersection of Westmoreland and Statesville roads. The projected project cost for Atrium Health – Lake Norman is approximately $154 million. If all goes according to current plans, the hospital will open in early 2024. 

The hospital will include 20 medical/surgical acute-care beds, six maternity suites and four ICU beds. There will also be eight observation beds, two operating rooms, a C-section operating room, and eight emergency-department bays, including two for trauma cases. Those will be open 24/7, with a helipad for accessibility. 

“With the population growth that has been taking place, this new hospital is a key piece of our mission to better meet the needs of residents in the area,” said Ken Haynes, president of the Greater Charlotte Region for Atrium Health, in a release on Monday. “Whether someone is having a baby, undergoing surgery or needs emergency care at any hour of the day or night, our expert physicians, nurses and support staff will be close-at-hand.” 

NC Jobs Recovery Accelerates, but Hardships Persist

Hiring appears to have picked up substantially in June, according to new labor market data released Friday, but barriers to employment continue to hamper the recovery. North Carolina remains well shy of pre-pandemic employment levels, in large part due to ongoing hardship created by COVID-19. 

“It looks like the American Rescue Plan may have boosted the economy in June, but we’re still a long way from full recovery,” said Patrick McHugh, research manager with the North Carolina Budget & Tax Center. “Even after the best month of job creation in a while, we’re still almost 125,000 jobs short of pre-COVID employment levels.”

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(Graph courtesy of the NC Justice Center)

The data shows that, altogether, nonfarming employment is still down 2.7% from where it was at the start of the pandemic, though that numbers shows growth of nearly a full percentage point compared to May’s numbers, with an increase of 40,700 jobs. Since March 2020, the accommodations and food-service industries have lost 41,900 employees, the most of any industry in the report; while the arts, entertainment and recreation industries have lost the greatest percentage of their employees, with the loss of 10,500 jobs making up 13.6% of employees in those fields statewide. 

Three People Killed in Charlotte, Homicide Total Reaches 60

There have now been 60 illegal killings in Charlotte this year after three men were killed in separate incidents over the past week. Shortly after 10 p.m. on Saturday, July 10, police responded to an assault call on Doris Avenue in the Oakhurst neighborhood of southeast Charlotte and found 69-year-old Calvin Hilton suffering from a stab wound. He was pronounced dead at the scene. The investigation was originally announced as a “death investigation,” but has since been ruled a homicide. No arrests have yet been made. Hilton’s family has set up a GoFundMe campaign to help with funeral expenses


Shortly after noon on Tuesday, police responding to a shooting call on Harris Station Boulevard, near the intersection of East W.T. Harris Boulevard and Rocky River Road, found 27-year-old Marquise Chandler Jr. suffering from a gunshot wound. MEDIC transported Chandler to the hospital, where he later died. 

Just before 2:30 p.m. on Thursday, police responded to a hospital in Pineville, where doctors were working on a patient suffering from an apparent gunshot wound. The patient, 25-year-old Derrick Barber, was transported from Atrium Health Pineville to Atrium Main in Charlotte, where he later died. It’s unclear at this time where the shooting took place. 

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