CHARLOTTE, N.C. — As state and county coronavirus metrics continue to soar, Mecklenburg Public Health Director Gibbie Harris wants everyone countywide to buckle down on COVID-19 vigilance for the next three weeks.
The county's top health official believes that following her list of directives will help right the ship.
"If we, as a community, can stick to these recommendations for the next three weeks, we believe it will help us get our numbers back under control," said Harris.
Harris announced the directive Tuesday afternoon during the Board of County Commissioners Budget and Public Policy meeting. The list of recommendations are effective immediately and will remain in place for the next three weeks, until February 2, 2021.
"This directive involves and includes the best possible public health recommendations that we can make right based on the urgent need to get this virus under control," Harris said. "It does not carry the weight of exec order or mandate."
Regarding whether schools should fully operate online, Harris said schools have to make that own decision. Harris did stress that any gathering that brings people together puts our community at risk.
"The schools will have to make their own decision on this like I said this is not a mandate or an order," Harris said. "We're asking them to think very carefully about their situation."
Harris stressed that this new directive did not come following any particular event.
"This directive is not related in any way to the fact that there was a CMS board meeting," Harris explained. "Our data report came out yesterday morning and we had the death yesterday. Those are the things that are driving this directive."
The death Harris is referencing is the youngest death in our county thus far. Harris said a 22-year-old died from COVID-19 complications. She said that person did have underlying health problems but was not able to elaborate any further on the death.
"That is not acceptable," Harris said about the death.
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.
When it comes to eating out a restaurant or visiting essential places of business, Harris is asking the community to be smart about their actions.
"If you walk to the door of a business and you see that it's crowded and people are not wearing masks, I suggest you do not visit that businesses, or come back a different time," Harris said.
Harris said she's hoping these three-weeks will get people to think critically about their potential exposure when they go outside of their homes and to limit those exposures.
As COVID-19 numbers have gone up across the state, North Carolina has not issued any more restrictions, as of yet. Harris said she has had multiple conversations with Dr. Mady Cohen.
"She implemented a directive that is very similar to what we put out and I believe that there is a need for people to step up and be very conscious," Harris said.
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The Directive instructs individuals in Mecklenburg County to take several immediate actions including (but not limited to):
- 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.
- Utilize full-virtual options for work, school and any other activity where in-person activity is not required.
- Avoid leaving your home if you are over 65 or at high-risk for developing serious illness.
- Avoid any non-essential travel.
- Avoid gathering with individuals that you do not live with.
- WEAR, a cloth face covering, WAIT 6 feet apart and avoid close contact, and WASH your hands often or use hand sanitizer.
- Quarantine and get tested if you have been exposed to someone with COVID-19 or have symptoms of COVID-19.
- 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.
- Get a flu shot and get the get the COVID-19 vaccine, when it is available to you.
"The exponential growth in the number of COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and related deaths require immediate action on the part of every member of our community," said Public Health Director Gibbie Harris.
The latest county metrics update shows daily cases, positive test rate, and countywide hospitalizations at their highest levels of the pandemic. Sunday, the county set a new daily case record with more than 1,300 infections reported.
Coronavirus-related hospitalizations are, on average, 500 patients over the last two weeks, and hospital systems have been calling on everyone to help them keep their COVID burden as low as possible.
The county directives are similar to last week's secretarial directive, which North Carolina Health and Human Services Secretary Mandy Cohen announced last Wednesday.
While Harris repeatedly referred to her directives as "recommendations," some of them do reinforce existing measures in Gov. Roy Cooper's executive orders, such as masking while in public and staying home between the hours of 10 p.m. and 5 a.m.