Mecklenburg County’s coronavirus metrics have seen “incredible improvement” this month, Public Health Director Gibbie Harris said Friday.New daily case totals, hospitalizations and positive COVID-19 tests results are “looking as good as they have since the beginning” of the pandemic, Harris said at a news conference.
The latest county health data, released Friday morning, show the rate of positive tests hit a record-low of 3% in the past week, declining far below the 5% threshold state health leaders have long used to monitor virus spread.
Since the start of May, the rate decreased by nearly 55%, according to a Charlotte Observer analysis of public health data.
“The numbers are incredibly positive and we want to continue to see them stay that way,” Harris said.
But the virus, which has claimed the lives of almost 1,000 residents, still lingers in Mecklenburg — and poses a risk to people not yet immunized, Harris said.
Unvaccinated people should continue to wear a face mask to protect themselves and others, the health director advised ahead of Memorial Day weekend.
Gov. Roy Cooper this month said his goal is to see two-thirds of all residents vaccinated. Yet the initial June 1 target has since been pushed back to July 4.
As of late Thursday, 39.9% of Mecklenburg residents are fully vaccinated, according to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services. That compares to 38.6% of all North Carolinians.
To overcome racial disparities and immunize thousands of more residents, health officials have turned to smaller grassroots efforts, relying on trusted messengers like clergy and community leaders to overcome lingering vaccine hesitancy.
“We know we still have a lot of work to do to get these numbers even higher to prevent further spread of COVID in our community,” Dr. Meg Sullivan, the county’s medical director, said.
Vaccination incentives are also getting increasingly creative.
Anyone 18 and older who gets a COVID-19 vaccine at CVS Health, for example, will get a shot at a number of sweepstakes prizes including cash, cruises and tropical vacations.
And people who drive friends and loved ones to any of five participating Charlotte vaccine clinics through June 8 can earn a $25 “Summer Cash Card,” courtesy of N.C. DHHS. The county health department will start participating in the program next week, Sullivan said.
MECKLENBURG COVID TRENDS
Mecklenburg’s improving coronavirus metrics reflect just how effective vaccines are at slowing the spread of COVID-19. The latest numbers show:
▪ The average number of people hospitalized for COVID-19 fell below 100 this week, the lowest total seen since mid-October. Over the past two weeks, hospitalizations for COVID-19 patients decreased by 40%.
▪ Mecklenburg has logged 113,237 coronavirus cases since the start of the pandemic, N.C. DHHS reported Friday. County health officials say 974 residents have died of virus-related complications.
▪ On average, the county is adding 70 new coronavirus cases each day, a 46% drop over the last two weeks.
But the average number of tests administered daily in Mecklenburg — now below 2,000 — is on the decline. The volume dropped by about 15% over the past two weeks, and by 28% since the start of May.