CHARLOTTE, N.C. (Danielle Chemtob and Amanda Zhou/Charlotte Observer) - There are coronavirus outbreaks on some construction sites around Charlotte, Mecklenburg County health director said Tuesday. And the local leader of the Latin American Chamber of Commerce says more should be done to protect work crews from contracting or spreading COVID-19 on the job.
“We are seeing some outbreaks in construction sites that we need to pay attention to,” said Health Director Gibbie Harris during a business roundtable discussion held virtually Tuesday morning. An outbreak is defined by the health department as two or more lab-confirmed cases.
Harris also said there have been three additional deaths in the county among people diagnosed with COVID-19, for a total of 69 deaths. Mecklenburg County has seen a total of 2,704 coronavirus cases, according to state health data Tuesday morning. The number is cumulative since mid-March. The state data show an increase of 52 local cases from Monday.
Statewide, DHHS reported 422 new cases Tuesday, for a total of 19,445, and 21 more deaths, for a total of 682.
Eligibility for coronavirus testing in the county is changing and the county is working on scaling up testing, with the goal of testing 55,500 people over a 30-day period. To hit the goal, the county needs to test nearly 13,000 county residents a week, Harris has said. In the first week of working toward the goal, the county fell short but administered close to 10,000 tests over a 7 day period in early May.
As testing has increased and more outreach has been done within Charlotte’s Hispanic community, the number of reported COVID-19 infections has risen among Hispanic residents, Mecklenburg data show. In early April, when there were fewer than 500 coronavirus cases reported in Mecklenburg, the number of Hispanic people diagnosed with COVID-19 locally was less than 8% of the total number of cases.
The most recent demographic data released late last week by the county show a disproportionate impact on Hispanic residents. Nearly 32% of more than 2,200 cases in the county on May 13 were identified among Hispanic residents, county records show. Based on census estimates, Hispanic residents make up around 14% of the county’s total population.
Rocio Gonzales, executive director of the Latin American Chamber of Commerce, said she and others are working with faith leaders in the Hispanic community to increase awareness about COVID-19 and provide practical health and prevention tips.
Construction companies should provide personal protective equipment for their workers and make sure social distancing is observed on the job, Gonzales said.
“I would like to know what efforts are being done in making them responsible,” she said Tuesday.
Harris said the county is having conversations with construction companies to push them to provide more protective equipment and implement social distancing on job sites.
A group of general contractors formed a group to develop a set of safety standards for worksites. But some workers and labor leaders still had concerns about whether enough was being done, the Observer reported in April.
MECKLENBURG COVID-19 UPDATE
As of May 13 — the last date demographic data was publicly available — county coronavirus data show:
▪ An average of about 54 people with lab-confirmed coronavirus infections were hospitalized at acute-care facilities in the past week. Those numbers reflect a decrease over the past two weeks, according to Mecklenburg health officials.
▪ An average of 7% of people who were tested were positive, showing a “slight” decrease over the last 14 days, health officials say. The figure includes only COVID-19 tests conducted by Atrium Health and Novant Health.
▪ About 3 in 4 people diagnosed with COVID-19 locally were adults ages 20 to 59 years old.
▪ About 1 in 7 people diagnosed were hospitalized due to their illness. People age 60 or older were more likely to need hospital care compared to younger people with coronavirus.