CHARLOTTE, N.C. (FOX 46 CHARLOTTE) – Health officials with Mecklenburg county gave a COVID-19 update on Wednesday.
The county’s health director, Gibbie Harris, has been adamant about currently keeping children out of schools for in-person instruction until they have a better gauge on the current pandemic and vaccine rollout and the data drops and remains level.
Groups 1 and 2 are the only groups being vaccinated currently, and Harris said there are quite a few people in those groups that still have not been vaccinated. Group 3 is huge and includes teachers, law enforcement, restaurant and bar employees, TSA, government employees, and supermarket workers. Harris said the goal is April and May but there are no guarantees.
300 Walgreens will receive vaccines across the state next week, and while Harris said it is not a huge amount, it is more than what they’ve been receiving.
Governor Cooper’s comments on Tuesday urging students to return to school classrooms may change that. Cooper, the state superintendent, and state health secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen cited trending data and science as reasons for the change in thinking. Harris said on Wednesday that they will follow state and federal policy on a return to -in-person learning.
“We’d like to see the schools focus on K-5 as they slowly roll back into the in-classroom environment. We will be talking to them later this week to find out their plans on what their thinking is,” Harris said.
“Well, having been a classroom teacher myself, you want your classroom safe, and I’m not sure that the school system has spent money appropriately, to have professional cleaning in every building. That’s the only way I would say that the schools are equipped to handle and to work with our children,” said Commissioner Vilma Leak.
Harris warned of large gatherings on Super Bowl Sunday. “We’re asking people to sort off put off those gathering until later in the spring.”
Gibbie Harris said hospitalizations, as well as testing, has gone down. Harris said some reasons for the decline in people getting tested could be the public’s shift in focus from testing to getting the vaccine. She also noted that many people may be a-symptomatic so they don’t know if they need a test.
As far as variants, vaccine studies, and mutations of COVID-19, Harris doesn’t believe we will be out of the woods by May or June.
Also discussed was racial equity of vaccine distribution and disproportionately impacted groups affected by this virus and there is still work left to do in this area. Public Health Medical Director Dr. Meg Sullivan said efforts are underway to go aggressively out into the community, to shelters, community clinics, to serve prioritized populations.
Harris also emphasized that, despite pop-up tents in the area charging for COVID-19 tests, the state is offering tests for free.
“These pop-up sites charging money for testing, and you do not need to pay for a test. And I think that all of the county commissioners need to be sure that we spread that word, because I don’t want anyone, you know, going to a testing site, that’s not legitimate,” At Large Commissioner Leigh Altman said.
It was also reported that there are a significant number of testing sites that are charging people to get tested, which health and county officials are concerned about.