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Each week, WFAE's "Morning Edition" hosts get a rundown of the biggest business and development stories from The Charlotte Ledger Business Newsletter.

Charlotte Businesses Prepare For The Return Of Mask Mandate

masks required sign
Elizabeth McDaniel
Face masks are once again required in Charlotte businesses as of Wednesday, Aug. 18.

Charlotte businesses must once again enforce a mask mandate for customers. That's after Mayor Vi Lyles this week issued a new mask mandate for people in all indoor settings, regardless of vaccination status. A similar mandate covering all of Mecklenburg County is set to take effect later this month. To get reaction from the business community about the return to masking up, WFAE's "Morning Edition" host Marshall Terry talks with Tony Mecia of the Charlotte Ledger Business Newsletter for our segment BizWorthy.

Marshall Terry: Tony, what have you heard from businesses?

Tony Mecia: Initially, businesses were wanting to know what this meant for them, what are the rules? For a lot of businesses, it's sort of getting up-to-speed on what they have to do. I mean, there's a lot of preparation that goes in it as far as training employees, putting up signs that say "masks are required." Businesses can't really turn on a dime. They say it takes a little bit of time to do some of these things. So I think they're trying to make those adjustments. You know, I was in Chapel Hill last weekend, which had the mask mandate put in last week. There are already signs up at businesses. It does take a few days, but they are able to do it. And so I think businesses are going to be happy that there's at least a little bit of clarity on what the rules are.

Terry: And do you get the sense that they're on board with doing this?

Mecia: I think so. I mean, my sense is that most businesses want to do the right thing, that they want to follow the appropriate orders. They don't really have any interest in being called out on social media or in news stories. I mean, they want to provide a safe place for their customers.

There are always exceptions, and I'm sure we'll see some of those. We saw them the last time, some of these bars where people kind of pack in with no masks. I'm sure we'll see some of that. But my sense is that most businesses want to do the right thing. They just want to know what that right thing is.

 A sign at a Charlotte-area Harris-Teeter strongly encouraged face masks in early August; now, they're required in Charlotte businesses.
David Boraks
A sign at a Charlotte-area Harris-Teeter strongly encouraged face masks in early August; now, they're required in Charlotte businesses.

Terry: Sticking with the return to masking up for a second, there was an interesting headline in The Ledger this week: "It's déjà vu for makers of face masks." How so?

Mecia: Yeah, you know, we don't often think about where these masks come from, but you might remember that early on in the pandemic, you had a whole bunch of manufacturers, a lot of whom had roots in the textile industry in North and South Carolina, step up and start producing some of these masks. And they produced a bunch of them and people started wearing them. And now it's been a lot of ups and downs. As the pandemic progressed and the mask mandate went away, they didn't produce as many. And now, they're ramping up again.

We talked to some and they said, well, it looks like it's back on. It's like déjà vu. This just comes in waves. And so they're seeing an increase in orders right now as people are being required to wear masks now in a way that they weren't a month or two ago.

Terry: Let's switch gears for a moment. A recent analysis by The Ledger found that Charlotte's Ballantyne area is more diverse than people might think. What did you find, exactly?

Mecia: Well, so we looked at census data and we broke that down. The thing that's interesting about this batch of census data is it breaks down numbers at a very granular level. So you can look at different census tracks and see how they've changed over time, over the last 10 years.

And so one of the trends that we found is that we all know that the the big trend out of the census data is that cities are becoming bigger, they're becoming more diverse. And one of the ways in which that's playing out in Charlotte is growth in the Asian community, which makes up a little bit more than 6% of Mecklenburg County's population. A lot of that growth, Marshall, is taking place in the Ballantyne area. Seven of the top 10 census tracks for Asian residents are in Ballantyne, south of 485.

That might come as a surprise to some people. It's driven, in large part, by increases in Indian residents. A lot of those residents come here for technology jobs. Certainly everybody has a different story. But people in the Indian community tell us a lot come here for the technology jobs. They stay here, they locate on the same street.

This is no surprise to people who live in Ballantyne. The schools in Ballantyne, many of them are between a quarter and a third Asian. And it's led to the growth of a lot of Indian businesses -- not just restaurants, but there's an Indian publication, there's an Indian grocery store. So that might come as a surprise, I think, to a lot of your listeners, Marshall. Certainly not a surprise to people in Ballantyne, but it is one of the interesting trends that we're seeing in Charlotte.

Terry: What other interesting trends did you find?

 The US Airways plane that was involved in the "Miracle on the Hudson" incident is in the Carolinas Aviation Museum.
Carolinas Aviation Museum
The US Airways plane that was involved in the "Miracle on the Hudson" incident is in the Carolinas Aviation Museum.

Mecia: One of the things in these numbers is it breaks down race and ethnicity data at a very granular level. So you can see, for example, what are the neighborhoods that have the highest concentration of white residents or Black residents or Hispanic residents. And much of that, might not come as a surprise, that the areas with the highest concentration of white residents, for example, tends to be Myers Park, Eastover, parts of Cornelius and Huntersville. Black residents, a lot of west Charlotte around the I-85 Brookshire area. Concentration of Hispanic residents tended to be the highest in southwest Charlotte along South Boulevard.

So, it points to different patterns of where different racial and ethnic groups live. It tells us a little bit about our city and certainly more interesting information to come.

Terry: Finally, you report plans are moving ahead for a new Carolinas Aviation Museum. What's the latest with that?
Mecia: Last week, the museum announced a $1.5 million gift from Honeywell. This is to renovate a hangar near Charlotte Douglas International Airport for an aviation museum that's supposed to open in 2023. Charlotte has had an aviation museum before. It's been closed down. It housed the "Miracle on the Hudson" plane — that will be coming back. But work is progressing on that, they're raising money for it. And again, hope to have that open in 2023.

Terry: All right, Tony, thank you.

Mecia: Thanks, Marshall.

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Marshall came to WFAE after graduating from Appalachian State University, where he worked at the campus radio station and earned a degree in communication. Outside of radio, he loves listening to music and going to see bands - preferably in small, dingy clubs.