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Mecklenburg County health officials face backlash after decision to close parks

The directive lasts for two more weeks but could be extended if the COVID-19 community spread doesn't improve.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Mecklenburg county health leaders are doubling down on their decision to close parks at dusk. 

Officials said they've gotten several complaints from people who just want to get outside after they've gotten off of work.

 "This is just absolutely ridiculous," tennis player, Sergei Gerasimov said.

At Jeff Adams Tennis Center, some people are making a racquet.

"I finish work, let's say it's 6:00 p.m. and I would like to play tennis but I can't," Gerasimov said. "We need to play."

Under the county's new directive, parks close at dusk which means the lights get turned off on tennis courts.

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"They don't understand why they can play in the day but yet not at night, what does the night do to tennis that makes it unsafe," Terri Sanz said. 

Sanz owns her own tennis league in Charlotte called Terri's Tennis Ladder. 

She said her players say the directive doesn't make sense, especially now when outdoor socially distanced sports are needed.

"You start taking away peoples exercise like that with no good reason, people are not going to listen to anything," Sanz said.

Mecklenburg County Commissioners' meeting got heated Wednesday night when two county commissioners asked county health officials to reconsider reducing recreational options.

"We have received hundreds of complaints people calling us unreasonable, nonsensical, and other adjectives," Vice-Chair of the county commissioner, Elaine Powell said. 

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Powell said she too enjoys the outdoors while taking safety measures. She asked for clarification on the park restrictions. 

"The numbers that I have provided to you every week are the reasons, the deaths that we're seeing are the reason, I don't know what else to say, we know what works," Health Director Gibbie Harris said. "I'd love for the parks to be open but I want our school and businesses open too but as long as our numbers are as high as they are everyone is at risk."

Harris offers an alternative.

"We would love for people to be outside in their backyard with their family," Harris said.

The directive lasts for two more weeks but could be extended if the COVID-19 community spread doesn't improve.  

RELATED: Mecklenburg County COVID-19 vaccination appointments fill up quickly