Meck County changes COVID-19 weekly test requirements for unvaccinated workers

CHARLOTTE — Mecklenburg County is changing its COVID-19 weekly testing requirements for unvaccinated employees, according to an email obtained by Channel 9 reporter Joe Bruno.

Last week, the county suspended 598 workers -- which amounts to 13.5% of the workforce -- for failing to upload their weekly COVID-19 test. The county is requiring employees to get tested for COVID-19 weekly if they are not fully vaccinated.

Following the suspensions, Channel 9 heard from numerous employees who felt the testing procedures were too hard to follow. Additionally, some employees said they followed the rules and were suspended anyway.

County commissioners indicated they heard similar concerns but during Tuesday night’s meeting, County Manager Dena Diorio was adamant that no employees were wrongfully suspended.

“Employees who are in this situation put themselves there,” Diorio said.

Diorio said employees who feel they were wrongfully suspended can file a grievance through Human Resources.

[PAST COVERAGE: Meck County issues mask mandate, weekly testing for unvaccinated workers]

Mecklenburg County’s original policy required employees to submit the results of their weekly test each week, but with increased testing demand in the community, the turnaround for test times can sometimes be 48 to 72 hours.

The county is now changing its policy to require proof of testing each week. That means, as long as employees show proof they were tested for COVID-19, they satisfy the weekly testing requirement.

Mecklenburg County will only require employees to upload their test results if they are positive.

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The county will also provide more flexibility for employees to get tested. Pending supervisor approval, exempt and non-exempt employees can get a COVID-19 test during their normally scheduled hours -- such as their lunch break -- if the testing does not interfere with their duties.

During an employee town hall last month, non-exempt employees were told to get tested after hours or on the weekend.

The county will now change its testing period to Sunday to Saturday. That means unvaccinated employees can submit proof of testing on any date within the Sunday to Saturday testing period as long as proof of testing is submitted once during each seven-day period. The move will provide employees with more flexibility to submit testing.

[PAST COVERAGE: Meck County suspends unvaccinated workers for not uploading weekly COVID tests]

Mecklenburg County is partnering with StarMed to expand COVID-19 testing options. Starting Monday, Sept. 27, the Northwest Health Department at 2845 Beatties Ford Road will offer testing from 10 a.m. - 6 p.m. on Monday and Wednesday and 10 a.m. - 4 p.m. on Tuesday, Thursday and Friday.

Starting Oct. 2, StarMed will hold a new weekly Saturday clinic from 9 a.m. - 1 p.m. in the Kuralt parking lot at 311 Billingsley Road.

According to Diorio, 86 employees remain suspended for not submitting any documentation as of Sept. 21. Of those 86 employees, 67 work in the Parks and Recreation Department. Seventeen are full-time and two employees are part-time but work in departments other than Parks and Rec.

Diorio said the 86 employees are at risk of being fired if they don’t comply with the county’s weekly test requirement.

Some commissioners said they were concerned about losing a large number of employees.

“We can’t afford to lose Park and Recreation employees and I am sorry to hear that number,” Commissioner Laura Meier said.

“I hate the suspensions,” Commissioner Leigh Altman said. “I hate the loss of workforce in Parks and Rec and DSS but we have to have a firm policy or we are not going to turn a corner.”

No additional COVID-19 testing is required until Sept. 26 when changes to the county’s test requirements go into effect.

(Watch the video below: Meck County suspends unvaccinated workers for not uploading weekly COVID tests)