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Charlotte Reimposes Mask Mandate As Delta Variant Surges Across North Carolina


Updated Aug. 18. 2021 12:06 p.m.

Masks will be required in indoor public places in the city of Charlotte and unincorporated areas of Mecklenburg County starting Wednesday at 5 p.m., making it among the largest cities in the South to have a mask mandate. The measure applies to anyone 4 years old and older, regardless of whether they have been vaccinated, and will last until at least Sept. 1.

Exceptions to the requirement include people who should not wear masks because of a medical or behavioral condition or a disability and people who are actively eating or drinking.

Masks will also likely be required in all of Mecklenburg County — including its six towns — by Aug. 28. The Board of County Commissioners is holding a special meeting Wednesday at 3 p.m. to vote on the proposed countywide mandate, though a draft of that measure had not been made available by noon on Wednesday.

If approved, the countywide mandate, or public health rule, would take effect 10 days later, on Aug. 28, and would include Cornelius, Davidson, Huntersville, Matthews, Mint Hill and Pineville.

The mask mandates were recommended by county officials at a news conference on Monday, following a closed-door meeting of a COVID-19 policy group. Officials said the recommendations were necessary because of the highly contagious delta variant of the coronavirus, which is spreading rapidly. North Carolina's statewide mask mandate lapsed at the end of July.

"The hope is that with a little bit of extra push, people will get the message and pay attention and start doing the right thing," Mecklenburg County Public Health Director Gibbie Harris said.

In a news release on Wednesday, city and county officials said that business owners must require customers to wear a mask if they do not qualify for one of the exemptions. They also said business owners should call Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police and report trespassing if customers refuse to comply and refuse to leave the premises of the business. CMPD Maj. Dave Johnson echoed that during a news conference Wednesday morning.

"We would not enforce the mask mandate in particular," Johnson said. "If it rises to the level of a disturbance and someone is refusing to leave the property after being told to do so by somebody who has the right to tell them to leave the property, then we would handle that as any other trespassing call."

Other city and county governments in North Carolina have recently reissued mask mandates. The city of Raleigh issued a proclamationthat took effect Friday requiring masks for all people in grocery stores, pharmacies, businesses, restaurants, bars, gyms and public transit, among other places. Durham County and the city of Durham have reinstated their mask requirements, along with the town of Boone, Guilford County and Orange County, which includes the town of Chapel Hill.

Buncombe County is expected to vote Wednesday on once again requiring masks inside businesses and other indoor settings, according to commission chair Brownie Newman, The Asheville Citizen-Times reported.

Charlotte and Mecklenburg County in recent weeks began mandating masks in city and county buildings. County Manager Dena Diorio said in a memo in early August that Mecklenburg’s measure was enacted “due to the county’s high rates of COVID-19 transmission.” The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Government Center is still closed to the public, aside from meetings of the Charlotte City Council, Mecklenburg County Board of Commissioners or the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school board.

Mecklenburg County will also begin checking employees’ vaccination status on Sept. 1. Anyone who is not vaccinated will be required to take a weekly COVID-19 test and present a negative result to human resources starting Sept. 7.

Meanwhile, Mecklenburg County’s public health department has said it will require all of its employees to get vaccinated against COVID-19. The agency has said all of its roughly 900 full-time, part-time and temporary employees must show proof of vaccination by Sept. 7.

WFAE's Sarah Delia contributed reporting to this story.

Copyright WFAE 2021.  For more go to WFAE.org

Claire Donnelly is WFAE's health reporter. She previously worked at NPR member station KGOU in Oklahoma and also interned at WBEZ in Chicago and WAMU in Washington, D.C. She holds a master's degree in journalism from Northwestern University and attended college at the University of Virginia, where she majored in Comparative Literture and Spanish. Claire is originally from Richmond, Virginia. In her free time, Claire likes listening to podcasts and trying out new recipes.