CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Nearly 600 Mecklenburg County employees were suspended Wednesday without pay for violating the county's COVID-19 policy regarding vaccinations and coronavirus testing.
"Unvaccinated Mecklenburg County Employees who have not submitted a negative COVID-19 test in the last seven days will receive suspension notices starting today," the county said in a statement released Wednesday to WCNC Charlotte.
WCNC Charlotte confirmed 598 employees received those suspension notices Wednesday.
The department most impacted was Parks and Recreation, with 221 employees suspended. In addition to maintaining more than 230 parks and facilities in the county, Parks and Recreation employees also operate rec centers, senior programming and youth sports.
The Department of Social Services had the second largest number of suspensions at 128.
The total number of employees suspended equals 13.5% of the county's workforce.
Those employees were expected to remain on unpaid suspension until proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test was submitted.
The number of potential suspensions to the Mecklenburg County Sheriff's Office and Charlotte Mecklenburg Library were not immediately known because those departments have their own departments of human resources.
Approximately 70% of Mecklenburg County employees have submitted proof of vaccination, according to officials. These rates outpace the fully vaccinated rate of the general public in Mecklenburg County, which was approximately 54% of the population as of Sept. 9.
Someone is considered fully vaccinated two weeks after receiving their second Moderna or Pfizer vaccine, or two weeks after receiving the single-shot Johnson and Johnson vaccine.
A COVID-19 vaccine is available to anyone 12 years of age or older.
A vaccine for younger kids is expected in the coming weeks.
Despite the amount of Parks and Recreation employees that were suspended, the popular Festival in the Park is still slated to go on as planned next weekend in Freedom Park. Event organizers say the annual celebration will not be impacted by suspensions as the event is run by volunteers and others who are directly paid by festival management.