Mecklenburg County votes to end mask mandate ahead of expected CMS discussion on district’s policy
The county’s mandatory indoor mask mandate will officially end on Feb. 26.
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV/CNN) - Mecklenburg County commissioners voted Wednesday night to remove the county-wide indoor mask mandate.
This goes into effect on Feb. 26 and masks will then be optional. It is important to note that businesses can still set their own policies.
Shifting COVID-19 conditions and higher community immunity led to Mecklenburg County Public Health Director Dr. Raynard Washington recommending revoking the current rule of indoor face coverings due to higher community immunity from vaccinations and prior infections.
“Current trends point to a shift in COVID-19 conditions and indicate the need for a revised response plan that encompasses prevention, surveillance, and equitable distribution of resources,” Washington said.
The seven-day case rate is down by 87 percent and hospitalizations are down 37 percent.
Public Health also recommends K through 12 students and childcare providers to establish plans now to transition to mask-optional by early March 2022.
Federal regulations still require mandatory face coverings in certain healthcare settings, public transportation, and in airports and on airplanes.
Commissioners voted on whether or not to proceed with the recommendation after they heard from the public, which was heated at times.
Originally, the county set a goal of 30 days below 5 percent and then in November changed it to seven consecutive days below 5 percent to rescind the mask mandate. Washington said Wednesday that this metric is no longer reliable enough to continue using as a goal.
“Getting a booster dose if you are eligible and continuing to wear a mask when appropriate, especially for people at high risk for serious illness, is the best thing you can do to avoid hospitalization and death from COVID-19,” he said.
As for Mecklenburg County’s decision, many parents want to know how it impacts Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools students.
The county’s decision to end the indoor mask mandate is separate from the policy the CMS board of education has. However, the board has been following many of the state and county recommendations.
At Wednesday night’s commission meeting, many parents showed up and held signs that read “Normalcy Now For Meck Kids.”
Many school districts surrounding Mecklenburg County have made masks optional. A CMS spokesperson said the board of education is expected to discuss the mask policy at its meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 22.
The North Carolina House is also set to take up a bill Thursday morning that would allow parents to opt their children out of mask mandates in schools.
While Mecklenburg County is willing to ditch the masks, officials with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said it’s not time just yet. The same goes for kids in school.
National leaders say masks should stay as pandemic burnout builds.
“We’re fighting against a burning desire among the country to get this over with,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, chief medical adviser to President Biden, said.
In a recent poll, 75% of Americans said they’re over this pandemic and are burned out. However, opinion on whether we should learn to live with COVID-19 or continue to fight it is split.
“The best we can hope for is to get it down so low, that’s when we can say, ‘You know what, we have virus in the community but it’s not disrupting our function,’ and I believe we can get there,” Fauci said.
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