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

Unvaccinated Mecklenburg County workers no longer have to take COVID tests, manager says

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Mecklenburg County now allows its unvaccinated employees to stay on the job without taking regular COVID-19 tests, County Manager Dena Diorio said this week.

The move is a reversal of Diorio’s former stance, which required unvaccinated county employees to submit to weekly testing or be fired.

“Throughout the pandemic, Mecklenburg County has been committed to protecting the health and safety of our employees,” Diorio told commissioners in September 2021, about a week before 16 unvaccinated county workers were fired for not following the testing policy.

At the time, Diorio defended the county’s requirement and boasted that Mecklenburg was “a leader in the community by being one of the first major employers to enact a COVID-19 testing program for unvaccinated employees.”

Now the county has dropped that testing protocol.

“We don’t have the testing requirement anymore,” Diorio told commissioners at their meeting Tuesday night. “We had probably 90% of our employees were fully vaccinated — and so we had really high compliance — and so now we don’t require the testing protocol anymore.”

It’s not clear when the change in policy took effect. A county spokesperson as of Thursday morning had not responded to emailed questions from WFAE.

Mecklenburg County employs some 5,800 people. If 90% are vaccinated, as Diorio said, then some 580 county workers have not been vaccinated and no longer have to take a regular COVID-19 test. County employees currently work on a hybrid schedule and can opt to work remotely for up to three days per week, Diorio told commissioners Tuesday night.

Meanwhile, the city of Charlotte has never mandated that its workers get vaccinated against COVID-19 or take regular coronavirus tests. As of September 2021, 62% of the city’s roughly 8,000 employees were partially vaccinated.

The Charlotte Fire Department had the lowest percentage of vaccinated employees at 49%. CFD is the second largest department in the city with 1,224 workers. A city spokesperson declined to provide updated numbers for this story.

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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.