Mecklenburg County Manager Talks Next Phase Reopening Plans
Submitted by Sivilay Xayasaene
For our July Luncheon, Mecklenburg County Manager, Dena Diorio, provided an overview of how the county responded to covid-19 and details of reopening plans. The detailed timeline provided insight on why decisions were made and how they responded to things that came before we had our first case.
Planning efforts begin on February 28th with the modification of the Pandemic Influenza Response Plan to meet covid-19 and the activation of the Policy Group. The Policy Group includes public health staff, emergency management, CMPD, Atrium Health, Novant Health, medics, CMS, the Sheriffs Office, the Courts, City of Charlotte, the six towns and all our Public Information Team. This group is designed to make collective decisions about our community wide response to covid-19 and allowed tracking of the virus. On March 9th the EOC (Emergency Operation Center) was opened allowing the county to access federal and state dollars. Dena continued to address the challenges of acquiring PPE’s, prioritizing testing with limited test kits, and gaining understanding of what a medical surge would look like for the community.
The beginning of the crisis started with Governor Cooper declaring a State of Emergency and the county’s first presumptive case of covid-19. CDC recommended guidance were followed. As crisis continued hotels were rented out for homeless residents to increase social distance or isolate those infected. First responders who were exposed or tested positive and did not want to return home were also provided hotels. Park and rec facilities were open to provide child care for first responders. On March 17th, county services were closed and transitioned to a virtual platform. A shining star during this time was Voluntary Organizations Active in Disasters (VOAD) who coordinated the efforts of 210 non-profit organizations that wanted to provide volunteer services and resources to people in the community.
On March 26th, a stay at home proclamation went into effect. By early April conversations started with hospitals on needs for field hospitals. County was asked to coordinate with the state of North Carolina to build a field hospital to manage a surge of 3,000 in hospitals. Projected peak was late April. Construction was ready to begin for the facility at UNCC until FEMA stated federal government would not be able help with any supplies needed or staff in order to make the hospital functional. Another request was for a 600 bed facility at Charlotte Convention Center. After further evaluation request for field hospitals were withdrawn. On April 16th there were 1,098 cases of covid-19 and projected peak flattened and moved from early May to mid-July.
On April 29th Governor Cooper announced the three phase reopening plan. On May 8th there were 2,007 cases of covid-19 and the county moved through Phase 1. On May 22nd Phase 2 went into effect with about 3,000 confirmed cases. By June 24th, Governor Cooper extended safer at home order to July 17th and required face coverings when social distancing is not possible. At present date, data continues to show an increase in positive cases. Check out the audio and presentation to hear more about the data collected including questions and answers from the group in attendance.