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Mecklenburg County Issues New Mask, Vaccination Policy For Employees

 County Manager Dena R. Diorio
Mecklenburg County Commissioners
County Manager Dena R. Diorio.

All Mecklenburg County employees are now required to wear face masks inside county buildings whether they have been vaccinated or not, County Manager Dena Diorio announced in an emailed Monday evening.

The county will also begin checking employees’ vaccination status Sept. 1. Anyone who is not vaccinated will be required to take a weekly COVID-19 test and present a negative test result to human resources starting Sept. 7, Diorio said. The new county policy does not require all employees to receive the vaccine.

Non-vaccinated employees must also wear masks outside on county property if unable to socially distance but fully vaccinated employees, once their status is verified, will no longer be required to wear masks in county facilities, according to Diorio. Mecklenburg County has roughly 5,600 employees.

Diorio said the new measures were enacted “due to the county’s high rates of COVID-19 transmission.”

“The most effective tool to combat the COVID-19 pandemic is to get the vaccine,” her announcement read.

Diorio also cited an order issued last week by North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper mandating all employees working for the state’s cabinet-level agencies to show proof of vaccination. Cooper said that those who are unvaccinated will have to wear masks, social distance at work and undergo weekly screening tests.

Cooper’s order covers about 50,000 state employees but does not extend to teachers and other school-based state workers. During his news conference announcing the order, Cooper urged local agencies and private businesses to make similar moves.

Both Cooper’s and Diorio’s new policies virtually mirror President Joe Biden’s requirements for federal employees which were also announced last week.

Meanwhile, last Monday, Mecklenburg County’s public health department said it would require all of its employees to get vaccinated against COVID-19. The agency said in a news release 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.”

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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.