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Mecklenburg County leaders update COVID-19 metrics as Phase 1b vaccinations begin

The county health department began taking appointments for COVID-19 vaccinations as Phase 1b begins Wednesday.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Mecklenburg County health leaders provided an update on the county's COVID-19 metrics and trends Tuesday, as registration is underway for Phase 1b vaccinations

Vaccination appointments for people 75 and older opened at 8 a.m. Tuesday morning. As expected, the Mecklenburg County Health Department was swamped with phone calls and had high traffic on its website almost immediately. Many people could not get through to schedule an appointment.

“We know that when you open up something to 20,000 people in the community and many of them call at one time, that things could potentially go wrong,” said Gibbie Harris, Mecklenburg County Health Director.

The first appointments released to the public filled fast.

“We did have all of our appointments that were scheduled through the 16th of the month fill up within a half hour,” said Harris.

The county releasing more, but once those are taken, that's it, for now.

“Once we have a better feel as we move into the month with the amount of vaccine that we're going to have available to us then we can open up additional appointments,” said Harris.

These appointments are in high demand, but there is a short supply of them. It all depends on the amount of vaccine the county receives from the state.

"We want to be able to go places and have people come in and we've just hesitated to do that until we get the shot," said Betty Tomlinson. She struggled to get through to make an appointment with the county before giving up.

"I do pretty much a lot of work on the iPad so I am familiar with going back and forth but this thing about trying to get the health department, it's just been very frustrating. In fact my friend had to leave the room because i was getting so frustrated," she said.

The Mecklenburg County Health Department isn't the only chance to get vaccinated. The two major health systems are set to start vaccinations this week.

Atrium Health will start vaccinating its patients Wednesday morning at 7 a.m.

Novant Health did a test run with a few patients today and notified others of what steps to take to secure an appointment.

"Novant patients we want to come to Novant, other systems want their patients to come to them and really leave the health department vaccinations to those who are unattached from a large health system," said Nikki Nissen, with Novant Health.

As of Tuesday morning, Mecklenburg County has reported 66,225 cases of the coronavirus with 588 deaths linked to the virus. Almost all of those deaths were older adults, according to the county. All but 13 of the county's COVID-19 deaths were adults with underlying health conditions, and nearly half were linked to long-term care facilities.

During the past week, Mecklenburg County has averaged 762 new lab-confirmed cases per day, up from the 14-day average of 681 infections. The percentage of positive tests in the last week is 15.6%, which is an increase over the past 14 days.

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Samaritan's Purse announced plans to open a 30-bed field hospital in Lenoir as North Carolina deals with record hospitalizations. According to the Catawba Valley Medical Center, Samaritan’s Purse began the construction on Jan.1. The unit will help support the needs of Catawba Valley Health System, Caldwell UNC Health Care, Appalachian Regional Healthcare System, Carolinas Healthcare System Blue Ridge, and Frye Regional Medical Center.

Officials said the unit will accept patients who are COVID-positive but do not need the support of a ventilator.

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