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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 Coronavirus Report Shows Black Residents With Higher Share Of Known Infections

Mecklenburg County Public Health Director Gibbie Harris
Claire Donnelly

Mecklenburg County released details Monday on the first 303 people who tested positive for the coronavirus showing that African American residents make up a larger share of cases than their share of the county population.  

The report says that 43.9% of known cases are of black residents, who make up 32.9% of county residents, according to the U.S.Census Bureau.

When the county first released demographic data on March 22 on the first 80 people who had tested positive for COVID-19 victims, 35% of people who had tested positive were black.

But it’s unclear if the percent of cases in the black community are rising faster than among other races and ethnicities. In the first demographic report, the county didn’t have a race or ethnicity for 14% of the 80 people who had tested positive. In Monday’s report, only 4% of cases didn’t have a race or ethnicity.

Of the 303 positive cases, 42% are white. Whites make up 57.5% of the county’s population, according to census estimates.

There are now 333 people who have tested positive in Mecklenburg, but the demographics reported didn’t cover the most recent 30.

For the first time, the county released a map showing the per-capita breakdown of cases by ZIP code. The areas with the most cases – more than 42 per 100,000 residents – are in ZIP codes that follow Interstate 77. Zip codes cover uptown, as well as west and north of uptown had some of the highest percentages of cases.

Credit Mecklenburg County released a map showing the percentage of known COVID-19 cases in the county on a per-capita basis / Meckenburg County
Meckenburg County

It’s impossible to know the racial and ethnic breakdown of all Mecklenburg residents who have been infected with the coronavirus. Many people may have symptoms and not been able to get a test, while others may have been infected but been asymptomatic.

Public Health Director Gibbie Harris said she has been reluctant to disclose the location of cases by ZIP code. She has said she doesn’t want to give people a false sense of security if they live in a ZIP code with few cases. She has said there is community spread in Mecklenburg, and that people should assume the coronavirus is everywhere.

During Sunday’s news briefing, reporter Glenn Burkins of Qcitymetro.com asked Harris about the black community having a larger share of COVID-19 cases. Harris said she hadn’t seen data to support that.

Medical experts, including those at the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, said no racial or ethnic group is at greater risk for COVID-19 infection than any other.

And Harris has said the county has not identified any cluster of cases in which one person spread it to many others.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has not released by data or estimates on who has been infected nationwide. Neighboring Gaston and Cabarrus counties don't list demographic information of their COVID-19 cases on their web sites.

Mecklenburg reported its first death from COVID-19 Sunday, a 60-year-old woman with underlying health conditions.

The report showed that .7% of the positive tests were people who were under 20. Forty-one percent of positive tests were for people aged 20 to 39; 34% were people ages 40 to 59, and 24% were over 60.

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Steve Harrison is WFAE's politics and government reporter. Prior to joining WFAE, Steve worked at the Charlotte Observer, where he started on the business desk, then covered politics extensively as the Observer’s lead city government reporter. Steve also spent 10 years with the Miami Herald. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, the Sporting News and Sports Illustrated.