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Mecklenburg County Health Department To Require COVID-19 Vaccines For Employees

The agency said in a news release that the mandate will take effect on Aug. 2 and that employees must show proof of vaccination by Sept. 7.

Updated July 26, 2021 5:35 p.m.

Mecklenburg County’s public health department said Monday that it will now require all of its employees to get vaccinated against COVID-19. The agency said in a news release that the mandate will take effect on Aug. 2 and that all of its roughly 900 full-time, part-time and temporary employees must show proof of vaccination by Sept. 7.

"We’re the public health agency here. We need to walk the talk," Mecklenburg County Public Health Director Gibbie Harris said. "We’ve been telling people they need to be vaccinated. We’ve been encouraging people. We’ve been talking about how safe it is. And we just need to be able to say that our staff is vaccinated as well.”

Harris said that employees can also request an exemption for religious or medical reasons, though she added that those who choose not to be vaccinated or are unable to do so will be required to wear a mask "100% of the time while at work."

"We do not fire people because they've not been vaccinated," Harris said. "We make sure that we are doing what we need to do, whether that’s social distancing or masking or whatever it needs to be, to make sure that other staff as well as clients are protected.”

Harris said she did not know how many of the department's 850 full-time, 33 part-time and 13 temporary workers had been vaccinated as of Monday. The agency has not previously encountered problems with staff refusing to comply with vaccine requirements, like for the flu, according to Harris.

The county's announcement comes after Charlotte’s two major hospital systems, Atrium Health and Novant Health, said Thursday they would make vaccines mandatory for all employees, along with Cone Health, Duke Health, Wake Forest Baptist and six UNC Health hospitals.

It also comes as the more contagious delta variant of the coronavirus spreads rapidly across the county and North Carolina. On Friday, the state Department of Health and Human Services reported a 66% increase in new COVID-19 cases over the past seven days compared to the previous seven days. It also said hospitalizations because of the virus had doubled since July 9. The state said the vast majority — roughly 94% of new cases — were in people who had not been fully vaccinated against the virus.

The county health department said in a news release that the new vaccination requirement is designed to “keep employees, clients and the workplace safe and will protect the health of the whole community.”

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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.