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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 Chief: 'Never Say Never' On Reviving County Mask Mandate


Mecklenburg County health director Gibbie Harris said on Friday that it’s too soon to say if or when the county could reinstate its mask mandate.

“We’ll continue to watch our data,” Harris said. “And if our numbers continue to climb, we may be changing our recommendations. It may be fall, it may be winter, it’s just hard to tell at this point.”

Harris added: “Things would have to change quite a bit … before we ever think about any more restrictions. But we never say ‘never.’”

The health director did not specify what metrics might be used as the threshold for when a mask mandate could be reimplemented. At various points in the pandemic, state and county officials have used goals to guide imposing or loosening restrictions, like saying that students could return to in-person school part-time if the test-positivity rate reached 5%.

The highly contagious delta variant of the coronavirus is spreading rapidly in Mecklenburg County, mostly among people who have not been fully vaccinated. The county on Friday reported an average of 92 new cases per day over the past week —18 more than the previous weekly average. Harris said 71% of new cases in the county are in people less than 39 years old.

Meanwhile, in California, Los Angeles County is reinstating its mask mandate starting Saturday, even for those who are vaccinated. The county has been recording more than 1,000 new cases each day for a week, according to public health officer Dr. Muntu Davis, and there is now “substantial community transmission.”

Harris acknowledged that a renewed mask mandate would be a tough sell in Mecklenburg County.

“Nobody wants to put that mask back on," she said. "But at the same time, if you get vaccinated, it’s less of an issue.”

As of Friday, half of county residents still have not been vaccinated. According to county data, white residents make up 59% percent of the county’s population and 55% have received at least one shot. Latinos make up about 14% of the population and 11% have been at least partially vaccinated. Meanwhile, Black residents make up roughly 34% of the county’s population but just 22% are vaccinated.

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