Photo: QCity Metro

With Covid-19 cases again climbing fast in Mecklenburg County, a new masking mandate will be imposed in the Charlotte area.

Starting Wednesday, Aug. 18, residents in Charlotte and those in the county’s unincorporated areas will be required to wear face covering in indoor public spaces.

The mandate, for now, will not apply to outdoor gatherings.

On Wednesday, county commissioners will meet to vote on whether to extend the mandate countywide, which would include the county’s smaller towns. Between now and then, officials in those town could vote to impose their own mandates.

County Manager Dena Diorio announced the new mandate on Monday, shortly after she held a private meeting with her Policy Group, which includes top officials from Charlotte, Cornelius, Davidson, Huntersville, Matthews, Pineville, and Mint Hill.

State and local health officials had been saying for weeks that they were growing increasingly alarmed by the rising number of Covid-19 cases being reported — especially cases brought on by the highly contagious Delta variant.

Source: Mecklenburg Public Health

After a hopeful period of declining infections, health officials now say that all the Covid-19 indicators are heading in the wrong direction, especially among the unvaccinated.

At a virtual news conference Monday, Diorio said the county, for now, would try to curb the growing infection rate through a new masking mandate.

“If that doesn’t work,” she said, “then we’ll go back and we’ll see what else, or what other options are available.”

During the first 11 days of August, Mecklenburg Public Health reported 4,946 new Covid-19 infections, an average of about 450 new cases each day. That represented a 48.5% increase over the previous 14 days.

The number of people being admitted to hospital with Covid-19 has been rising, too, especially among younger residents. And while the death rate from Covid-19 has fallen dramatically, the pandemic continues to claim lives. From July 29 through Aug. 11, eight people in the country were reported dead from Covid-related illnesses. Half of those who died identified as Black.

From June 20 through Aug. 11, the number of Covid-19 patients in Mecklenburg hospitals has risen steadily. This chart shows daily totals. (Source: Mecklenburg Public Health)

Meanwhile, only about half of Mecklenburg’s 1.1 million residents are fully vaccinated.

Mecklenburg Public Health Director Gibbie Harris, speaking at that same press conference, said that aside from vaccinations, masking is the most effective way to slow the spread of Covid-19.

“We know COVID is here to stay,” she said. “We have got to manage it. And vaccines and masks are going to help us manage this as we move into the winter.”

Neither Harris nor Diorio said how long the masking mandate would last.

QCity Metro reporter Jalon Hill contributed to this report.

Founder and publisher of Qcitymetro, Glenn has worked at newspapers including the Los Angeles Times, St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times, Philadelphia Inquirer, Wall Street Journal and The Charlotte Observer.

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