CHARLOTTE, N.C. – As Mecklenburg County officials keep a close eye on the COVID-19 positivity rate, a Charlotte mother is growing anxious about the mask mandate’s future.
Stacy Staggs and her husband rely on masks when they leave their home to keep their daughters safe from COVID-19.
“We haven’t taken [Emma] to the grocery store…she’s doing homebound schooling,” Staggs explained.
Emma and Sara, 8, are twins and were both born prematurely through an emergency cesarean section. Staggs had preeclampsia which can result in high blood pressure and signs of organ damage.
“When [Emma and Sara] were born they were both immediately intubated and whisked to the NICU,” Staggs said.
Sara spent 98 days in the NICU and underwent heart surgery at two weeks old. Emma stayed longer and was on a ventilator for three months. Emma still lives with breathing and feeding tubes.
“We were thrown into an entirely different world,” Staggs said.
Since Staggs’ daughters have complex medical needs and disabilities, she and her husband are cautious when they leave their home and rely on masks to help keep Emma and Sara safe from contracting COVID-19.
“I’ve seen how difficult life on a ventilator can be,” Staggs said. “Part of my very low-risk tolerance for the girls is that I will do whatever I can to keep them from that experience again.”
County commissioners voted in early November to lift the mask mandate once the average weekly positivity rate for COVID-19 falls below 5%.
“For our family, it’s going to push us more back into the house,” Staggs said. “For other families who aren’t able to adjust…it’s going to add risk for them.”
Staggs says she wants to believe the positivity rate will continue to decline once the mandate is dropped.
“But that’s not based on history… when cases started dropping in the summer everyone got very excited, even our CDC director said we could take our masks off,” Staggs said. “Then very quickly cases started climbing again.”
Staggs says she’s also concerned about what CMS will decide to do once the mandate is lifted. She says she wants to get back to normal, especially for the sake of her daughters. But even if the county reaches its benchmark soon, she thinks ending the mandate as we head into the winter months, might be too soon.
“I think we’re anticipated for people to be community-minded and a lot of us just aren’t these days,” Staggs said. “It’s the most disappointing thing about all of this is that we have the answers, we know what works, and we’re not doing it.”
On Monday, the county released its latest data on the seven-day COVID-19 positivity rate. According to the graph, the metric was at 6.0% on Sunday and had been climbing for about a week.