Meck County health director says she’s not ready to issue mask mandate

CHARLOTTE — Mecklenburg County Health Director Gibbie Harris said the county supports the recent changes the federal government made to its mask-wearing guidance, but she’s not ready to order a mask mandate.

Harris and other top health officials held a news conference Wednesday to talk about how the new guidance impacts the county.

The United States took a step backward from returning to normal on Tuesday after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reversed its mask guidance for schools and people who are vaccinated as the delta variant continues to spread rapidly.

The CDC stated that if you live in an area experiencing a high or substantial spread of COVID-19, you should wear masks indoors -- even if you are vaccinated-- which includes inside schools.

The CDC defines substantial community spread as 50 to 100 new cases per 100,000 people over a week period, or an 8% to 9.99% positive rate. High community spread is 100 people or more new cases per 100,000, or a percent positive rate of 10% or more.

North and South Carolina have substantial levels of transmission, according to the CDC.

Based on the CDC’s guidance, Mecklenburg County is one of the areas where everyone should be wearing masks indoors. Despite that, Harris said she is not ready to recommend a mask mandate for the county.

She said she is hoping people will step up and get vaccinated.

Other than masks, Harris said no other restrictions are being considered or discussed at this point in Mecklenburg County.

On the burden falling on the vaccinated to mask up again, despite the unvaccinated accounting for basically all of hospitalizations and serious cases of COVID, Harris said, in part, “My mother always said, ‘Life’s not fair.’”

Mecklenburg County officials have shown little appetite to implement mask mandates without the buy-in from all cities and municipalities. There will likely not be unanimous consent on this issue, so if a mask mandate is going to be issued, it will likely have to come down from Gov. Roy Cooper.

Cooper is expected to hold a COVID-19 news conference Thursday at 4 p.m.

The popular music venue in NoDa, Evening Muse, said it will require masks for all guests.

“If it makes business keep running and operating, then sure, yes,” resident Keith Garcia said about wearing masks.

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The Mecklenburg County Courthouse announced a mask mandate Wednesday that requires anyone who enters the building to wear a face covering. The order goes into effect Monday.

(WATCH BELOW: Delta variant fueling rapid rise in COVID-19 cases)