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Mecklenburg County Public Health director is ‘hopeful’ county is past omicron peak

Over the past few days, the percent positivity here in Mecklenburg County has leveled and off and started to slightly decline.
Over the past few days, the percent positivity here in Mecklenburg County has leveled and off and started to slightly decline.
Published: Jan. 25, 2022 at 6:44 PM EST
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - While there are still high levels of community transmission, health officials in Mecklenburg County are hopeful we are turning a corner.

They are already making efforts to move into the next phase of handling this pandemic, announcing last week the county will be scaling back contact tracing operations.

Over the past few days, the percent positivity here in Mecklenburg County has leveled and off and started to slightly decline.

Mecklenburg County Public Health Director Dr. Raynard Washington tells WBTV he is hopeful we are past the peak of Omicron and it means it’s time to start changing the way we think about this virus, and maybe even the way we test.

From Charlotte, to Huntersville, to Cornelius - Mako Medical opened three new testing sites across Mecklenburg County Tuesday.

“Just to give more options and so people can get in and out quicker,” Eric Kristensen, a sales executive with Mako Medical, told WBTV.

Demand for tests is at an all-time high, but Novant Health officials are reminding you that there are other options.

“I think at some point there’s a diminishing return on going to get tested if you have a high likelihood of having COVID,” Novant Health’s Dr. David Priest told reporters.

The health system is also urging people to refer to CDC guidance when it comes to the timeline for testing and re-testing.

“The CDC guidance as it states today is that testing should occur on the fifth day after an exposure, but we see people come the very next day,” Marty Lambeth, VP of Novant Health Physician Network Services, said. “They may turn out to be negative because they came too soon and then they have to come back to be re-tested.”

Dr. Washington agrees with Dr. Priest that testing is not always a must.

“It’s okay to just stay home and isolate,” Dr. Washington said. “You don’t have to get tested. If you can get your hands on a rapid test kit just to know you had covid.”

He says this even though the county uses testing data to monitor the virus and make decisions.

“We don’t just look at case counts, we don’t just look at percent positivity, we don’t just look at hospitalizations, we look at all three of those, and deaths in combination, because that gives you a better sense of what’s happening completely,” he said.

He also says wearing a mask and getting vaccinated is still key, but he does expect a new phase of this pandemic soon.

“We have hopefully have reached a plateau,” he said. “I am hopeful that we will start to see some rapid deceleration of our case counts in the next few weeks and I do think we will get to the point when our mask mandate will be lifted.”

As for when that mask mandate could lift, he says he cannot speculate. The county would have to move from a 33 percent positivity rate to a 5 percent positivity rate for 7 consecutive days.

The county was close to reaching that rate prior to the Omicron variant.

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