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'It's important to mask and vaccinate' | Mecklenburg County health leaders recommending wearing masks, but not issuing new mask mandate

Mecklenburg County Health Director Gibbie Harris urged everyone, regardless of vaccination status, to wear masks when indoors with others.

MECKLENBURG COUNTY, N.C. — Mecklenburg County Health Director Gibbie Harris held a news conference Wednesday afternoon to discuss the latest COVID-19 trends in the county, just one day after the CDC released its new guidance regarding masks. 

RELATED: CDC recommends masking up for everyone as cases climb back up again

Harris said the Mecklenburg County Health Department fully supports the newly-released CDC guidance, saying masking up is still important as about 50% of the county's population is not vaccinated. 

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Mecklenburg County is considered a high-risk transmission county, under the CDC metrics.

Harris urged everyone, regardless of vaccination status, to wear masks when indoors with others.

At this time, Harris said she is not ready to issue a new mask mandate. In order to pursue such a mandate, the health department would have to get the towns within Mecklenburg County to back it. Health leaders have not had the time to have those discussions yet. 

However, if COVID-19 metrics in the county continue to escalate, Harris said county health leaders will have more discussions about any necessary actions.

The department is now focusing on masking and getting more people vaccinated.

"We'll continue to try to help people understand why it's important to mask and vaccinate, it's not an either or, it's a both right now," Harris said.

RELATED: CDC reverses course on indoor masks in parts of US where COVID is surging

WCNC Charlotte's Hunter Sáenz asked Harris if there is no new mask mandate, how health leaders would like local businesses to respond. 

Harris asked that all business owners in Mecklenburg County require masks indoors, in accordance with CDC guidance, regardless of vaccination status.

"It is a way of protecting their own employees so that they can keep their businesses open but it's also a way of protecting their patrons and the community at large," Harris said.

Some local businesses are ahead of the curve. The Evening Muse in NoDa announced it will require masks indoors before the county press conference.

"The principle concept of a music venue is togetherness and a lot of closeness. so we just decided to stay ahead of the curve a little bit," co-owner Joe Kuhlmann said.

After 14 months of silence, musicians have been back at the mic since May, Kuhlmann said it's been steady but safety is the top priority.

"Our business, we were closed for 421 days. Something as simple as putting a mask on and asking our guests, staff and performers to do the same, it's not that much to ask," Kuhlmann said.

Contact Chloe Leshner at cleshner@wcnc.com and follow her on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.  Contact Hunter Sáenz at hsaenz@wcnc.com and follow him on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

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