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Mecklenburg County manager worried about COVID-19 variants as vaccination rates flatten

Less than half of adults in Mecklenburg County are vaccinated against COVID-19. Health officials say that isn't good enough as variants like delta quickly spread.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Mecklenburg County officials say the Charlotte area isn't out of the woods with COVID-19, especially with new variants like delta continuing to spread. 

"We don't want to go back to where we were," said County Manager Dena Diorio, urging people to get vaccinated immediately. "That's the only defense against this variant and others."

Diorio shared that message at the Belmont Tuesday breakfast forum. Diorio said that the number of COVID-19 cases is down to an average of about 57 per week and hospitalizations are down to about 41 per week. The positivity rate, though, has almost doubled from 2% to 3.9%. 

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"Only 46% of our population is totally vaccinated and 49% is partially vaccinated, and quite frankly, that's just not good enough," Diorio said. "The data we are getting now is that people who are getting COVID and people who are dying from COVID are people who are either partially vaccinated or not vaccinated at all."

RELATED: NC COVID-19 numbers are starting to rise again, with new growth in hospitalizations

Diorio said county health officials continue to urge the importance of getting more people to roll up their sleeves, saying this is the key weapon in the fight against the coronavirus and its variants. This is especially important in communities of color on the east and west sides of the county, where vaccination rates are even lower. 

According to Mecklenburg County, the number of fully vaccinated African-Americans stands at 22% despite making up 34% of the population. Latinos, who account for 14% of the population, only account for 11% of the county's vaccinations. 

"I think the data is pretty clear, the science is pretty clear, that these vaccines work," Diorio said. "And we really need to do everything that we can to get people vaccinated."

RELATED: 'It's not confrontational' | Mecklenburg County health leaders deliver COVID-19 shots right to doorsteps

Diorio said while incentives like the $25 gift cards initially created a slight bump in numbers, those numbers have flattened. Other incentives, like the $1 million vaccine lottery, haven't shown any increases. She said it's going to be up to more local efforts like the health department's efforts, to convince people, one by one, on a more personal level. 

"So again, you know I would encourage you to encourage your friends and your family and talk to your pastors, whoever you think would be helpful, whoever that trusted voice is in this community, to help people understand that getting vaccinated and it's really the right thing to do," Diorio said. 

Contact Richard DeVayne at rdevayne@wcnc.com and follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

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