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

Charlotte, Mecklenburg County Mask Mandates Could Take Effect As Early As Wednesday

Mecklenburg County Manager Dena Diorio speaks Monday during a news conference.
Mecklenburg County
Mecklenburg County Manager Dena Diorio speaks Monday during a news conference.

Updated: August 16, 2021 6:26 p.m.

A new mask mandate takes effect in Charlotte on Wednesday and masks will likely be required in all of Mecklenburg County — including its six towns — by Aug. 28, county leaders announced Monday.

Officials recommended the mandates at a news conference Monday afternoon, following a closed door meeting of a COVID-19 policy group. They said the recommendations were necessary because of the highly contagious delta variant of the coronavirus which is spreading rapidly. North Carolina's statewide mask mandate lapsed at the end of July.

"The hope is that with with a little bit of extra push, people will get the message and pay attention and start doing the right thing," Mecklenburg County Public Health Director Gibbie Harris said.

To enact a mask mandate for all of Mecklenburg County, commissioners will need to hold a vote, which they are scheduled to do at a special meeting Wednesday. If approved, the countywide mandate, or public health rule, would take effect 10 days later on Aug. 28 and would include Cornelius, Davidson, Huntersville, Matthews, Mint Hill and Pineville.

In the meantime, the city of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County's unincorporated areas will issue their own, separate mandate. Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles said on Monday she supported officials' recommendation and would issue a mask mandate for North Carolina's biggest city starting Wednesday.

The Policy Group

Monday’s announcement came immediately following a closed meeting of Mecklenburg County’s COVID-19 policy group, which is composed of public officials from the city of Charlotte and the county, along with hospital representatives, emergency response leaders and others.

On Friday, 13 news organizations, including WFAE, sent a letter to county officials demanding the policy group meeting be open to the public in accordance with North Carolina’s open meetings law.

“The Policy Group’s stated position that it is exempt from the Open Meetings Law because it is not a ‘public body’ within the meaning of the statute, but rather ‘a meeting solely among the professional staff of a public body’ … is plainly incorrect,” the letter reads, in part.

Reporters repeatedly questioned Diorio during the Monday news conference about why the meeting was closed and she responded somewhat testily at times. The meeting does not need to be open to the public, she said, because the group does not make binding decisions or take votes — it merely issues recommendations.

"We've been successful doing that for 17 months ... this is not the first policy group meeting we’ve ever had," Diorio told reporters. "We've been meeting consistently since March of 2020. And I think we’ve done an outstanding job representing the community and making decisions that are in the best interest of the community."

Other NC Counties And Towns Reinstate Mask Mandates

Other city and county governments in North Carolina have recently reissued mask mandates. The city of Raleigh issued a proclamationthat took effect Friday requiring masks for all people in grocery stores, pharmacies, businesses, restaurants, bars, gyms and public transit, among other places. Durham County and the city of Durham have reinstated their mask requirements, along with the town of Boone, Guilford County and Orange County, which includes the town of Chapel Hill.

Buncombe County is expected to vote Tuesday on once again requiring masks inside businesses and other indoor settings, according to commission chair Brownie Newman, The Asheville Citizen-Times reported.

Charlotte and Mecklenburg County in recent weeks began mandating masks in city and county buildings. County Manager Dena Diorio said in a memo in early August that Mecklenburg’s measure was enacted “due to the county’s high rates of COVID-19 transmission.” The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Government Center is still closed to the public, aside from meetings of the Charlotte City Council, Mecklenburg County Board of Commissioners or the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school board.

Mecklenburg County will also begin checking employees’ vaccination status on Sept. 1. Anyone who is not vaccinated will be required to take a weekly COVID-19 test and present a negative result to human resources starting Sept. 7.

Meanwhile, Mecklenburg County’s public health department has said it will require all of its employees to get vaccinated against COVID-19. The agency has said all of its roughly 900 full-time, part-time and temporary employees must show proof of vaccination by Sept. 7.

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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.