CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Masks will be required in indoor public spaces in Charlotte starting Wednesday.
Charlotte joins Raleigh, Durham and several other cities and counties in North Carolina to issue local mask rules. Mecklenburg County is also considering a mask mandate that could begin later this month.
"We are a community of families with children and we care deeply about the health of children as they begin school. We are also doing this to support the people who work in our city and this is a way for our businesses to remain open," Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles said. "We will work with and support our business community through this time."
Mecklenburg County Public Health is recommending a county wide mask mandate and a "public health rule," which would require masks indoors across the county.
County commissioners will vote on the mandate during a special meeting Wednesday. If commissioners approve the policy group's recommendation, the mandate would take 10 days to go into effect.
In the interim, Mecklenburg County and the city of Charlotte will institute individual mask mandates in unincorporated areas to mandate mask wearing as soon as Wednesday.
County Manager Dena Diorio hopes the mandate will be effective in reducing the rate of virus cases. No additional restrictions, such as gathering or capacity limits, are being considered.
Gov. Roy Cooper's statewide mask mandate ended last month.
The new mask rules are a response to rising coronavirus cases in North Carolina, fueled by the delta variant, which appears to spread much faster than earlier versions of the virus.
"We have to remember there are people who are medically unable to get a vaccine and they are relying on the rest of us to do our part to stop the spread of the virus before it infects them or their loved ones," Lyles said.
About half of Mecklenburg County is fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, according to the state Department of Health and Human Services.
"We need more people in our community to get vaccinated, which is the best way for us to get back to normal for the long-term. Unless we do better on getting shots in arms, this won’t be the last time we have to mandate masks or other measures," Lyles said.
Daily case counts in North Carolina are back up to where they were at the beginning of the year. Case numbers in Mecklenburg County mirror the statewide data with hundreds of new cases reported each day in the last week.
Coronavirus cases have increased by 87% in the past two weeks in Mecklenburg County, Public Health Director Gibbie Harris said during a news conference Monday.
With college students going back and K-12 schools getting ready to start next week, public health officials worry the delta variant could cause a bigger spike than after the holidays.