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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 Gets The Longer Stay-At-Home Order It Wanted. But Nearby Towns, Counties Are Left Out

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State of North Carolina
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NC Health and Human Services Secretary Mandy Cohen said Thursday the state's stay-at-home order would be extended until May 8.

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper's decision Thursday to extend the state's stay-at-home order until May 8 pleases Mecklenburg County officials, who asked him Wednesday to continue the restrictions.

But an increasing number of suburban towns -- and exurban counties -- near Charlotte want to go in a different direction.

For instance, in Huntersville, Mayor John Aneralla blocked the county's effort to extend its stay-at-home order on its own. When Mecklenburg first enacted its stay-at-home order in March, Aneralla supported the move.

But he said no this week. He said retail stores deemed “nonessential” today should be allowed to open.

"I think a good first step to reintroduce people back into normal life would be to allow the 'mom and pop' retailers – under the same guidelines the governor set out – to open," he said.

He also said the expected surge of COVID-19 patients hasn’t happened, and that hospitals are furloughing health care workers. 

"There’s a concern that people are typically not getting the health care that they would typically go to get," he said.

Matthews Mayor John Higdon said he thinks the majority of Mecklenburg towns would relax restrictions today, though he stressed the important of opening slowly.

Commissioners in Lincoln, Union and Gaston counties asked Cooper not to extend stay-at-home.

In fact, Gaston County – in coordination with its health director -  had already been planning to reopen April 30. Gaston has had 127 cases of COVID-19, including three deaths; 102 people have recovered. There are 22 active cases.

But the view is very different in Mecklenburg County, which has more cases than any other county in the state. It has 1,377 known cases and 37 deaths.

At Wednesday's Commission meeting, Commissioner Susan Harden asked health director Gibbie Harris whether the county should lift restrictions.

"I’m going to ask again: Is it a recommended public health best practice to reduce or lift restrictions while we’re having increases in hospitalizations and increases in cases?" Harden asked.

Harris said no. The county had one of its largest one-day increases of COVID-19 infections – 76 -- that day.

"It is probably not best public health practice to look at widely opening up again in our community when we will still need social distancing and we still need our stay-at-home order," Harris said.

The number of new infections in the last week increased in Mecklenburg compared with the previous seven days. But the new caseload was lower than the two weeks before that, in early April.

The county doesn’t release how many COVID-19 patients are in hospitals. But it appears the hospitals believe that, for now, they can handle expected increases in COVID-19 patients: Novant said Thursday it’s resuming nonessential surgeries in May.

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