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See the latest news and updates about COVID-19 and its impact on the Charlotte region, the Carolinas and beyond.

Mecklenburg Health Department To Create Permanent COVID Team

COVID-19 vaccine
Courtesy Novant Health
© Novant Health 2021
A syringe of COVID-19 vaccine is drawn at a vaccination clinic at the Spectrum Center in February 2021.

The Mecklenburg County Health Department will soon add a more permanent COVID-19 team. County health director Gibbie Harris said on Wednesday that roughly $13 million in state and federal funding will initially pay for the new unit within her agency. She said additional funding is also expected.

“There is anticipation that we’re going to be working on COVID for two to three more years at least,” Harris said. “So we felt the need to ... formalize the structure for this.”

According to Harris, the new division at the health department will consist of “a number of different positions” that report to a division director and be a mix of existing temporary agency staff and new hires. She said on Wednesday that the department would be “meeting over the next two days” to finalize what positions it will be hiring for.

Harris also presented the plan to Mecklenburg County commissioners at their meeting on Tuesday.

Screenshot (175).png
The proposed structure for the COVID-19 unit within the Mecklenburg County Health Department that director Gibbie Harris presented to commissioners on Tuesday.

“We are paying close attention to the mental health of our staff, issues of burnout and retention,” Harris said. “Some staff have refused to work COVID and have decided to resign...Others have worked relentlessly six and seven days a week.”

She added: “We do not have the ability to sustain this ongoing response with the current staff and structure that we have as well as do the public health work that we need to do in the community.”

Harris hopes that adding additional staff dedicated to the coronavirus response will help free up others at her agency to work on additional public health issues.

“A lot of our work has continued throughout COVID but at a lower level,” Harris said.

The county health department holds a wide range of responsibilities outside of its coronavirus response. According to its website, the agency conducts restaurant, nursing home, and child care center inspections; monitors for mosquitoes that may carry Zika or other viruses; and registers birth and death certificates, among other things.

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Claire Donnelly is WFAE's health reporter. She previously worked at NPR member station KGOU in Oklahoma and also interned at WBEZ in Chicago and WAMU in Washington, D.C. She holds a master's degree in journalism from Northwestern University and attended college at the University of Virginia, where she majored in Comparative Literature and Spanish. Claire is originally from Richmond, Virginia. Reach her at cdonnelly@wfae.org or on Twitter @donnellyclairee.