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Mecklenburg County health director supports in-person learning as new directive takes effect

Health Director Gibbie Harris is in favor of in-person learning for younger students but still encourages people to wear masks in public and stay home when possible.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Mecklenburg County Health Director Gibbie Harris wants people to continue to stay at home between 10 p.m. until 5 a.m., wear masks and practice social distancing when they leave their homes as the new modified health directive takes effect Tuesday. 

Harris made some modifications to the extended directive, mainly affecting schools. Harris said schools can have in-person teaching with proper safety measures in place. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools are currently scheduled to resume in-person learning on Feb. 15

"We're supportive of our students going back to school," Harris said. "Especially with our younger students."

RELATED: Mecklenburg County health director concerned about school sports resuming

That's a change from earlier guidance, which recommended virtual learning for students. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a report last week that said in-person learning is safe. The report cited a study of 11 North Carolina districts that reported zero student-to-staff transmissions of the virus over a nine-week span.

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While supportive of in-person learning, Harris shared her concerns for some extracurricular activities, including sports where close contact occurs. Harris said those activities should be avoided and county parks will continue to close at dusk during the modified directive. CMS announced its plan for sports and after-school activities to resume this month. 

"We'd love people to be outside, in their backyards, with their families but not mingling in parks," Harris said. 

Gov. Roy Cooper is scheduled to update North Carolina's response to the virus Tuesday afternoon. According to state data, just 41% of second vaccine doses have been administered, compared to over 99% of first-dose shots.

RELATED: Mecklenburg County health officials face backlash after decision to close parks