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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 Says COVID Outbreaks Are Hitting Construction Sites As Latino Cases Rise

house construction
Jodie Valade
Outbreaks in construction sites are driving an increase in COVID-19 among the Latino community, according to health officials

Mecklenburg County's health department said COVID-19 outbreaks in construction sites are driving an increase of cases in the Latino community.

Latinos are 14% of Mecklenburg's population. Health director Gibbie Harris said Tuesday they now make up nearly 35% of all cases in the county.

"That number is rising fairly rapidly," Harris said during a meeting of the county's business roundtable advisory group. "And most of these are young Hispanics. We’re seeing a good number in individuals less than 20, but the majority are in the 20-30 age group."

She said the county "needs to pay attention to" reported outbreaks in construction sites, and that the county plans to increase an educational campaign about social distancing and the important of wearing masks.

Rocio Gonzalez with the Latin American Chamber said during the roundtable meeting that she plans to speak with religious leaders in the Latino community and encourage them to urge people to wear masks.

"There is a big thought that God will protect us and that's why we should not be wearing masks, because we are protected by God," Gonzalez said. "I am going to take advantage of being in front of about 30 different clergy and religious organizations to ask if they could please (encourage people to wear masks)."

In the early weeks of the outbreak in Mecklenburg, African Americans were disproportionately impacted -- at one point making up nearly half of all cases despite being a little more than 30% of the county population.

Credit Mecklenburg County
The most recent ethic breakdown of COVID-19 cases in Mecklenburg County.

But in the last month, the share of non-Hispanic white people and African Americans with COVID-19 have fallen.

Despite Latinos now being the largest racial or ethnic group with COVID-19, they comprise less than 2% of deaths from the virus.

The number of confirmed COVID infections has risen in Mecklenburg in the past week. Harris says she believes that’s the result of increased testing.

The number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 in Mecklenburg has also increased, with 68 patients. That's the highest number since the end of April, but not as many as the peak of 111 patients in early April.

Gov. Roy Cooper could move North Carolina into Phase 2 of reopening on Friday. 

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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.