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Mecklenburg County planning long-term COVID-19 response, hiring more employees for response team

Health Director Gibbie Harris said the county is planning to be responding to COVID-19 for two to three years. It's why she wants to create a permanent response.

MECKLENBURG COUNTY, N.C. — Mecklenburg County Health Department will soon start hiring 26 employees to form a more permanent COVID-19 response team. 

On Tuesday, the Mecklenburg Board of County Commissioners voted unanimously to approve the department to hire the needed workers. 

Currently, about 75% of the 900 staff members at the department are responding to COVID-19, according to health director Gibbie Harris. 

She wants some of her employees to be able to focus on other public health matters. 

Coronavirus cases are slowly going down, but work still needs to be done to vaccinate more people in the community. 

"We are not out of the woods yet," Harris said. 

However, fewer people have an urgency to get the shot. 

"At this point, the urgency is not there, people are like I'll get it when I get around to it," Harris added. 

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Data shows only about 30% of Mecklenburg County is fully vaccinated. Harris and other government officials are planning and funding a COVID-19 response for the next two to three years. 

Underserved communities are still a priority area for health officials. More affluent zip codes are better vaccinated in the county than others. 

RELATED: Which Charlotte zip codes have the highest COVID-19 vaccination rates?

"We want to make vaccine available where people already are," Harris said. 

The county will continue to hold more vaccine clinics in those underserved communities, and they are planning to wheel out a van to serve as a pop-up shot-spot. 

Have a relative or friend in another state and want to know when they can get vaccinated? Visit NBC News' Plan Your Vaccine site to find out about each state's vaccine rollout plan. 

Action NC is also going door to door to find out why people are hesitant, and educate them about the vaccine. They started canvassing the Hidden Valley neighborhood on Monday. 

"The folks who still need to get vaccinated -- the messenger is more important than the message," she said, explaining how trusted people in the community need to get the word out to those who are skeptical of the vaccine. 

The end goal is to get vaccines into as many arms as possible. 

However, Harris said it's difficult to see exactly where the county needs to put more emphasis because the state isn't giving all of its data over to the county. 

"We would really like to get our hands on the data," Harris said. 

She and other health departments are frustrated they can't grasp a clear picture of how beneficial their efforts have been. 

Contact Hunter Sáenz at hsaenz@wcnc.com and follow him on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.