Mecklenburg Commissioners Discuss Second Shutdown, But County Manager Says No

Jul 8, 2020

Mecklenburg County commissioners on Tuesday night discussed shutting down the county again because of rising COVID-19 hospitalizations and confirmed cases.

But County Manager Dena Diorio said that’s not necessary, and that the two major hospitals say they are in good shape. 

At-large Commissioner Trevor Fuller questioned Mecklenburg Public Health Director Gibbie Harris: “Are we prepared to close our county down again?”

Harris said she would be willing to make that recommendation if needed but that she doesn’t have the authority to do so.

Then Diorio – Harris’ boss – jumped in.

She said rolling back reopening is not on the table. She talks multiple times a week with Atrium Health and Novant Health.

“What they have told us every single time is that even though hospitalizations are increasing, they have learned so much more about how to treat this virus,” Diorio said. 

There were 177 COVID-19 patients in Mecklenburg hospitals on Sunday. That’s up from 102 a month before.

Atrium and Novant are running at about 80% capacity – which is near normal – and have about 2,400 hospital beds in the county. They have about 400 spare ventilators.

“(The COVID-19 patients) are not as sick as they were at the beginning,” Diorio said. “That they don’t vent them as quickly as they used to, that they have more drugs available to them that they know work. So they are able to manage that and send people home a lot more quickly than they could before.”

While confirmed Mecklenburg coronavirus cases have increased steadily since reopening, there hasn’t been a significant increase in the number of people dying each week from COVID-19. 

Commissioners on Tuesday did pass a more stringent mask ordinance that requires people to wear face coverings inside all buildings owned by Mecklenburg County, Charlotte and Matthews. Masks are now mandated in outdoor settings, including county parks, where people can’t be six feet apart.

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