CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) – Mecklenburg County health leaders are recommending a countywide indoor mask mandate. The city of Charlotte will implement a mandate, going into effect as early as Wednesday.
After a Mecklenburg County Policy Group meeting on Monday afternoon, county Manager Dena Diorio announced the recommendation.
Public Health is asking county commissioners to approve a public health policy to make the mandate official. County commissioners will meet on Wednesday to vote on the measure.
If approved, the mask mandate would be effective 10 days after the county commissioner meeting and include all six towns in Mecklenburg County, regardless of whether the town boards are in favor of it.
In the meantime, Mecklenburg County and the City of Charlotte will institute mask mandates in unincorporated areas of the county and in Charlotte, which will be in effect as soon as Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles and Chairman George Dunlap sign a joint proclomation. Diorio said that could happen as early as Wednesday.
Wike Graham from Emergency Management says the policy group recommends this mandate to slow the spread of COVID-19. Graham says it’s largely due to the steep rate at which COVID-19 cases are climbing in the community.
Mecklenburg County Public Health Director Gibbie Harris says the county remains in the red regarding COVID-19 community spread. She says information shows significant transmission of COVID-19 in the community and an 87 percent increase over two weeks.
Monday’s Policy Group meeting continued in private despite WBTV and 12 other Charlotte media outlets sending a letter, demanding public access to that meeting.
Last fall, WBTV was the first to report about the group – which is made up almost entirely of appointed staff and not elected officials.
But this group has been charged with making policy for how local and county government has handled the COVID-19 pandemic.
In an interview with WBTV, Mecklenburg County Manager Dena Diorio previously said it was possible that local towns could be split on the adoption of a mask requirement.
The political hot potato of a mask mandate has lead to changing positions over the course of the last week.
Mint Hill Mayor Brad Simmons previously told WBTV he would be sipportive of a mask requirement but after talking with his town board said they would likely be against it.
Matthews Mayor John Higdon similarly said his board would be supportive of the recommendation from the Policy Group but on Monday said town commissioners would discuss the item Thursday and make a decision then.
Diorio said that no other restrictions are being considered at this time and the best tool in their kit this time around is the vaccine.
However, Diorio said there was no discussion within the Policy Group of requiring businesses to check for proof of vaccination in order for customers to enter.
Public health leaders say there is a possibility for civil fines if the mandate is not followed. Guilford County implemented a similar measure last week.
On Monday, Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles issued the following statement:
“Since the beginning of this pandemic I have said that I will rely on the medical and healthcare experts to guide our decisions for our community. Based on feedback from the Public Health Department, Atrium Health, Novant Health and Medic, it is important that we take additional measures to help protect our residents and community. I’ve spoken with George Dunlap and Gibbie Harris and I support their approach to create a county-wide mask mandate, which would create a consistent policy across Mecklenburg County and reduce confusion among our residents. The soonest this could go into effect would be 12 days from today, so in partnership with George Dunlap and Mecklenburg County, I am instituting a mask mandate that will go into effect on Wednesday, August 18 and will bridge the gap between Wednesday and when a county-wide mandate could go into effect. More than 1,000 of our friends and loved ones have died from COVID-19 in Mecklenburg County – and people continue to die. One of the reasons we are doing this is that we are a community of families with children and we care deeply about the health of children as they begin school. We are also doing this to support the people who work in our city and this is a way for our businesses to remain open. We will work with and support our business community through this time. For some of the people I represent in this city, this is a matter of life or death. I’ve read the emails and the letters that come to my office, with stories of personal tragedy. We have to remember there are people who are medically unable to get a vaccine and they are relying on the rest of us to do our part to stop the spread of the virus before it infects them or their loved ones. I received one email from a worried grandmother with a grandchild suffering from an immune system disorder. Members of our community are so concerned that they are writing to me, pleading for help. Today, our community has taken a step forward to giving them the peace of mind they deserve. It is not an overstatement to say that getting a vaccine and wearing a mask is a matter of life and death. We need more people in our community to get vaccinated, which is the best way for us to get back to normal for the long-term. Unless we do better on getting shots in arms, this won’t be the last time we have to mandate masks or other measures. With you, we can get to a better place. Getting a vaccine supports your family, your friends, and your neighbors. Please get vaccinated and please wear a mask,” Lyles said.
The Charlotte Knights said they will be requiring all fans accessing public, indoor areas of Truist Field to wear a face covering unless actively eating or drinking. This will include the Budweiser Home Plate Club, the Diamonds Direct Luxury Lounge, and the Knights Team Store. This requirement will be effective beginning with Tuesday night’s home game.
Knights officials say private suite holders will not be required to wear a mask in their spaces with their small groups. Masks are also not required to be worn outdoors within Truist Field.
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