CHARLOTTE – Mecklenburg County urged residents to take its stay-at-home order seriously after reporting its first COVID-19-related death on March 29.
Public Health Director Gibbie Harris said a 60-year-old resident with “significant” underlying health conditions was hospitalized at the time of death. Harris did not release any additional information about the patient.
“This unfortunate situation is a reminder to all of us how serious this particular pandemic is across our country and in our community,” she said.
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Mecklenburg County reported 418 cases of COVID-19 on March 31. That’s 28% of the 1,498 cases reported in North Carolina. The county reported 127 cases on March 24, when it announced a 21-day stay-at-home order starting two days later.
Harris said during a March 29 press conference that people were crowding county parks, making it difficult to practice social distancing. Since then, the county has closed sports courts.
Deputy Chief Jeff Estes said the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department and other law enforcement agencies are approaching enforcement with a focus on education. CMPD received “1,200 or so” complaints regarding the stay-at-home order or mass gatherings, Estes said March 27.
“We know this is hard, but we really encourage voluntary compliance,” Mecklenburg County Manager Dena Diorio said. “We know that a higher level of voluntary compliance we get, the quicker we can get through this.”
Union County has reported 44 cases. Though the county did not issue a stay-at-home order, Gov. Roy Cooper has ordered one that spans until April 29.
Union County has launched a video campaign featuring the likes of Atrium Health Union President Mike Lutes, Congressman Dan Bishop and retired Carolina Panthers defensive end Mike Rucker urging neighbors to stay at home.
Wavering attitudes on stats
Mecklenburg County’s most recent release of demographic data was on March 28. Among the 303 reported cases, 21.2% were hospitalized with another 3.6% under investigation. Hospitalization rates among those 60 and older occurred at a rate of one in every two people. About 21% of total cases have been released from isolation.
“Our hospitals are seeing increased severity in illness and the number of individuals requiring admission and all of our hospitals are seeing individuals needing to be on ventilators at this point,” Harris said.
The percentage of cases by age group shows 41.3% were between ages 20 and 39, followed by 34% ages 40 to 59, 24.1% ages 60-plus and 0.7% under age 20.
The percentage of cases among races includes 43.9% black, 42.2% white, 7% Hispanic, 2.6% Asian, less than 1% Alaskan Native/American Indian and 4% not reported.
Mecklenburg County also released the number of cases by zip code, something leaders initially didn’t want to do, then did, then didn’t, then did. Initially, the county withheld the locations of cases to emphasize the seriousness to the region.
“The reason we did not put the map out last week is because a number of individuals were making decisions about where to go shop, where to spend their time based on the zip codes that have the least amount of numbers,” Harris said. “That was not the intended use of that map and unfortunately we continue to have individuals infected in those zip codes regardless of whether they have been tested or not. We did not want individuals making decisions based on that map.”
However, Harris said people find the map useful and the county wants to be transparent with its data.
“We ‘ll be using the map to help inform people, but people need to pay attention to the fact that COVID-19 is in our community,” Harris said. “We do have community spread and you need to assume that you’re going to be exposed if you are out and about in our community.”
Want to learn more?
Residents in Mecklenburg and Union counties should visit their respective county’s website daily to ensure they are getting updated safety information and warnings. Anyone who thinks they need testing should call ahead or get virtually screened.
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