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Mecklenburg County health director recommends face masks, social distancing to slow spread of COVID-19

There are over 7,800 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Mecklenburg County. Health Director Gibbie Harris urged the public to wear masks while in public areas.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Mecklenburg County Health Director Gibbie Harris encouraged residents to wear a face covering if they go out in public to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 during a press briefing Friday

As of 11 a.m. Friday, there are 7,850 cases of coronavirus in Mecklenburg County. Sadly, 136 people have died from the virus in the county as well. Harris said Mecklenburg County conducts about 2,500 COVID-19 tests each day, with the majority of those (about 75%) being conducted by Novant Health and Atrtium Health facilities. 

Harris also explained that North Carolina health officials have lowered the threshold for what counts as an outbreak in congregate living facilities, like nursing homes. The threshold has been lowered from two confirmed cases to just one lab-confirmed case. As of Friday, there are 21 congregate-living facilities in Mecklenburg County that are in outbreak status. 

There has been some confusion regarding the percentage of positive coronavirus tests in the county. Harris said any discrepancy in official county data is because they only count results from Atrium and Novant in their percent positive results. That's because the state doesn't require negative results to be reported. As a result, some test facilities only release their positive tests, making it impossible to accurately calculate percent positive results. 

Harris also urged Mecklenburg County to wear face masks. County Manager Dena Diorio said the county isn't requiring masks in public yet, but the issue will be discussed at a county commissioner's meeting on July 7.

"There's no substitute for social distancing and hand washing," Harris said. "Our stay at home order has been effective at slowing the spread of the virus but it's not a long-term solution."

Local and state leaders have considered requiring masks to be worn in public at all times, but no decision has been made yet. On Thursday, Governor Roy Cooper said state officials will determine what's next in the reopening process next week but stopped short of saying North Carolina will make face coverings mandatory.

This story will be updated with information from Friday's press conference. For the latest breaking news and weather information, download the WCNC Charlotte mobile app.

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