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Mecklenburg County could propose dropping its mask mandate next week, health director says

Dr. Raynard Washington said with Mecklenburg County's COVID-19 metrics trending down, he could make a proposal to remove the indoor mask mandate next week.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Mecklenburg County Health Director Dr. Raynard Washington said Tuesday he could make a proposal to get rid of the county's mask mandate as early as next week, citing a dramatic decrease on COVID-19 metrics. 

Washington made the comment during the Mecklenburg Board of County Commissioners strategy meeting. 

The percent positivity rate in Mecklenburg County on Feb. 6, the latest published date, was 20.8%. That number has steadily decreased over the past week. Metrics are also trending down at the state level, with North Carolina health officials reporting fewer than 4,000 COVID-related hospitalizations.

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Washington said last week that he wasn't yet comfortable removing the mask mandate, but said that situation could change in a couple of weeks. The mask mandate was reinstated in the county in August, at the start of the deadly delta surge. 

“If we’re able to continue the decline in surge at the rate that’s been happening in the last week, I do see some real opportunities for relaxing mask mandates, relaxing our activities, just within next month,” Dr. Mark McClellan, former FDA commissioner and professor at Duke University said.

The rate is still too high for some people in Charlotte who say, they aren't ready to let down their guard, even if the mask mandate is rescinded. 

Thalia Owens told WCNC she will continue to wear a mask.

"I still don't mind, especially all that togetherness because you never know," Owens said. "Always stay safe."

Some Charlotte business owners and employees told WCNC Charlotte it would make their jobs easier, though. 

"I'm pulling it up and down to start hookah and stuff like that," Janetta McDonald, a manager at Red@28th, said. "Most of the time, people at the bar can't hear me so, I have to pull it down anyways to talk to them, especially when the music gets going."

Katrina Tetreault, also a manager in the service industry, said work for her staff at Shear Excellence would also be easier. 

"We do something called beard facials and we do beer trims," Tetreault said. "It's gonna be a little tricky because we're in such close quarters with our clients."

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