CHARLOTTE – Mecklenburg County has extended its stay-at-home order until April 29 to align with the state, as well as shared updated projections as to when health leaders expect COVID-19 cases will peak locally.
Health leaders had projected cases to peak in April, but new modeling shows the peak could be delayed to June with increased social distancing.
“We have not yet seen a dramatic acceleration in cases, which indicates to us that we are seeing some progress in flattening the curve,” Public Health Director Gibbie Harris told county commissioners April 14. “ But it also implies that we must continue social and physical distancing if we are to maintain the flattening of the curve.”
By that point in the week, Mecklenburg County reported 992 COVID-19 cases and 16 deaths.
Harris showed commissioners modeling that forecast three scenarios based on varying levels of social distancing.
If the peak were to occur May 22, the region would need 5,476 licensed beds, including 2,253 intensive care beds, as well as 1,141 ventilators. A June 8 peak would require 2,756 beds, 1,143 ICU beds and 544 ventilators. On June 25, the needs would be 1,506 beds, 821 ICU beds and 313 ventilators.
Harris clarified to reporters after the meeting that flattening the curve isn’t about returning to normalcy, but about buying the hospitals time needed to prepare for a spike in cases and not be overwhelmed.
County Manager Dena Diorio said the county doesn’t want to give residents the impression the stay-at-home order would remain in place until the peak is reached. She mentioned the stay-at-home order as is until June wasn’t realistic.
“It gives us the ability to look at the restrictions and have a plan to start to loosen some of those restrictions as we continue to see the curve flatten,” Diorio said.
Diorio told reporters that loosening restrictions wasn’t going to be like flipping a switch with everything going back to normal. Expect more of a phased approach.
While county leaders credit the stay-at-home order and social distancing for helping flatten the curve, Harris said she has seen more vehicles on the roads and larger crowds at grocery stores.
If Gov. Roy Cooper chooses to extend the state’s stay-at-home order, then Mecklenburg’s order will automatically stretch to align with it, Diorio said.