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Mayors split on potential mask mandate in Mecklenburg County, decision could come Monday

The decision to enforce a mask mandate could come to the desk of mayors across the county early next week.
Published: Aug. 11, 2021 at 4:24 PM EDT|Updated: Aug. 11, 2021 at 8:19 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles said she would support a new mask requirement if The Policy Group recommended one at their meeting next Monday. That decision could come to the desk of mayors across the county early next week.

In an interview with WBTV, Mecklenburg County Manager Dena Diorio said it was possible that local towns could be split on the adoption of a mask requirement if one is recommended at their next Policy Group meeting.

“Absolutely,” Diorio said. “We found that last time as things started to normalize a little bit, we did have some towns that sort of peeled off and didn’t want to continue on.”

The Policy Group is a cohort of unelected officials representing the towns, schools, public health, and emergency management. Since the State of Emergency was signed in March of 2020, the group has met regularly until June when the COVID-19 rates locally started to dwindle.

“When we stopped meeting in June our positivity rate had fallen well below 5 percent,” Diorio said.

Diorio said that masks were not part of their discussion during the first meeting on August 2nd but could be on the agenda for their next meeting.

“Obviously we didn’t really talk about that last week, but we’ve seen what’s happened in Boone and Watauga County and Durham and I think Wake County may be coming out with a mask restriction,” Diorio said.

On Tuesday, Mayor Vi Lyles declared she did not have the power the sign off on a mask mandate. WBTV later confirmed that the entire county is under the same State of Emergency that was originally agreed upon in 2020 and she did have that power.

In a later statement, Lyles deferred making a decision until The Policy Group made a recommendation.

WBTV reached out to a spokesperson for Lyles, who said if The Policy Group made a mask recommendation she would support it.

The mayors of Mint Hill and Matthews also said they would like to support it.

“If the public health experts at the policy group make a recommendation regarding masks, Matthews will likely support it,” Matthews Mayor John Higdon wrote to WBTV. “We’ve made it a priority to work together with our emergency management partners in an effort to maintain a consistent approach throughout the county.”

Mayors in Huntersville and Cornelius said at this point they would not be in favor of a mask requirement.

“While I am very concerned about the resurgence of COVID I continue to watch the numbers closely. However, at the present time I don’t support a mask mandate, nor do I believe the majority of my board would at this time,” Cornelius Mayor Woody Washam wrote.

Davidson Mayor Rusty Knox told WBTV that he is personally going back to wearing a mask.

“As always, the town will lean on the collaborative leadership of the Policy Group to help inform any possible changes to the current masking policy, including masking recommendations for both vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals, particularly indoors and in areas of high transmission,” Knox wrote.

The Policy Group is planning to meet Monday with an announcement likely afterward about any recommendations or requirements on masks.

Diorio said that no other restrictions are being considered at this time and the best tool in their kit this time around is the vaccine.

“We talk about it all the time we continue to have vaccine clinics,” Diorio said. “We will go anywhere that people want us to go, but it really comes down to we need these trusted voices in our community to convince their friends, their family, their parishioners, that this is OK, and it’s safe, and it’s the right thing to do.”

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