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Mecklenburg County health director concerned about school sports resuming

Public Health Director Gibbie Harris said she has concerns about sports starting back, added that COVID-19 clusters have been tied to sports.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Mecklenburg County Health Director Gibbie Harris expressed concerns about Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools plans to resume sports and after school activities.

During Friday's Mecklenburg County COVID-19 virtual press conference Harris said she had concerns about sports starting back, added that COVID-19 clusters have been tied to sports.

On Wednesday CMS announced many extracurricular activities and most sports will resume in February, including basketball and football, as the district begins its transition toward more in-person learning. 

"Extracurricular programs are vital to the social and emotional health of our students," CMS Superintendent Earnest Winston stated. "With confidence that community conditions have improved, we are pleased to resume athletic practices and competition and to begin offering arts students the opportunity to participate in after-school activities."

A letter from Director Gibbie Harris on Thursday says a revised health directive will remain in place through Feb. 28 with a few modifications. 

Health Director Gibbie Harris announced that a modified directive will replace the one scheduled to expire on Feb. 2.

“While our metrics have improved over the three weeks that the Directive has been in place, the number of cases, hospitalizations and positivity rate remain high,” said Public Health Director Gibbie Harris. “I am grateful to our community for their commitment to following the Directive, but we need to remain vigilant with the prevention measures that are necessary to continue to move our community in the right direction."

The decision follows the Governor’s announcement earlier this week to extend the modified Stay Home Order and the decision to keep the DHHS Secretarial Directive in place.

Modifications to the original directive include: 

  • Individuals should continue to utilize full-virtual options where in-person activity is not required. For schools, the CDC study released earlier this week, indicates that with appropriate safety measures in place schools can be a safe location for students to learn and for school staff to support that learning. Public Health continues to be supportive of in-classroom learning as the optimal options for our youth.  

  • Individuals should avoid recreational activities in which they may have close contact with others. We know how important the ability to be outside is to the mental health of our community. However, recreational activities should only be shared with the individuals you live with.

Individuals should continue to follow the other actions outlines in the original Directive –

  1. Only leave your home for essential activities and remain at home between the hours of 10 p.m. and 5 a.m., unless an exception as set forth in the Governor's Executive Order applies.
  2. Avoid leaving your home if you are over 65 or at high-risk for developing serious illness.
  3. Avoid any non-essential travel.
  4. Avoid gathering with individuals that you do not live with.
  5. WEAR, a cloth face covering, WAIT 6 feet apart and avoid close contact, and WASH your hands often or use hand sanitizer.
  6. Quarantine and get tested if you have been exposed to someone with COVID-19 or have symptoms of COVID-19.
  7. Answer the call and participate in contact tracing to protect against further spread if you receive a call or text from Mecklenburg County Public Health.
  8. Get a flu shot and get the get the COVID-19 vaccine, when it is available to you.

Harris announced the directive earlier this month during the Board of County Commissioners Budget and Public Policy meeting. 

RELATED: Mecklenburg County health officials face backlash after decision to close parks

Harris said she is hoping this directive will give our county time to deal with the rising COVID-19 deaths. She stressed that she doesn't want Mecklenburg County to have the same situation LA is in right now. 

"We believe that a three-week calming in our community can help us get these numbers back under control so that it can be reasonable," Harris said. 

WCNC Charlotte has learned Mecklenburg County officials will hold a press conference about this directive after the county wraps up its retreat.  

RELATED: CMS parents continue fight for in-person learning amid mental health concerns for students