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Mecklenburg County health officials worried about a post-holiday surge in COVID-19 cases

Mecklenburg County's top health official said she expects a surge in cases after the Thanksgiving holiday.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Health officials in Mecklenburg County are worried the county is about to see a rise of COVID-19 cases.

Thousands of residents traveled for the holiday, against the CDC's recommendations and the next two weeks will tell us just how close people got.

Mecklenburg County's top health official said she expects a surge in cases after the Thanksgiving holiday, putting more stress on our healthcare system
as they wait for vaccine vials to arrive. 

RELATED: Did you travel for Thanksgiving? The CDC said you should get tested, but not immediately

"We do expect an increase. We don't know what the extent of that will be, but we do expect one," said Mecklenburg County Health Director Gibbie Harris. 

Harris said the county will be prepared, with adequate testing and contact tracing.

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"Right now, we're in a position to be able to manage the numbers we have coming in," Harris said. 

The big challenge is getting people to the right testing facility to keep lines short, unlike what happened at Bojangles Coliseum before the holiday.

"They had not planned for that number of people," Harris said. "So we have no control over where people go to get tested." 

RELATED: Bojangles Coliseum packed with people trying to get COVID-19 tests

Harris said Charlotte's hospital bed capacity is stable, and they still have room to create more beds from within. However, staffing could become a problem depending on how bad the numbers get. 

"Staffing could be a challenge for them, so we'll have to watch that carefully," Harris said. "The staffing is probably just as big a challenge as the bed space right now." 

A vaccine is on the way,  but as Harris warns, we can't let our guard down. 

"I'm afraid that people are saying, ok, we've got vaccine coming, we're good. No, we're not," she said. 

Harris stressed that it's critical to continue wearing masks and to keep your distance from people, especially if you traveled for the holidays. Those who traveled are advised to get tested over the next week. 

RELATED: 'Different than other vaccines'| Charlotte-area hospitals anticipate logistical puzzles with COVID-19 vaccines