Mecklenburg NC Says 350 Employees Suspended From COVID-19

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As of Friday afternoon, more than 350 Mecklenburg County government employees were suspended for failing to follow county COVID-19 vaccination and testing protocols.

That’s a significant drop from Friday morning, when county officials revealed more than 500 employees were suspended

The fluctuating numbers come as county officials check whether some employees have been wrongly suspended amid new coronavirus protocols at the Mecklenburg workplace that went into effect this week. Some employees may have turned over their COVID documentation to the wrong service or supervisor, resulting in a suspension that was later revoked.

The new tally was released on Friday afternoon, after the Observer obtained an email County Director Dena Diorio sent to county officials. The 356 suspensions across all departments mean 6.1% of county workers are suspended.

That tally includes 322 suspended employees from Mecklenburg County departments, with the exception of the Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office or the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library – the two agencies have separate human resources offices.

Some 34 library workers were also suspended earlier this week.

No employee in the sheriff’s office has been suspended for failing to follow the COVID-19 testing protocol. The office will conduct an internal investigation and consider whether disciplinary action is necessary, spokeswoman Janet Parker told The Observer.

The number of suspensions continues to drop from what county officials first revealed on Wednesday, when around 600 employees received notices of suspension.

County officials had told The Observer that those notices needed to be verified, especially among employees who had sent their COVID testing information to the wrong department and had been wrongly suspended.

In total, for county agencies excluding the library and sheriff’s office, 187 full-time employees, 81 part-time employees and 54 temporary employees are suspended for non-compliance, according to the email that Diorio sent to deputy county directors and county commissioners.

Mecklenburg started implementing Diorio’s COVID-19 workforce policies this week. The county is requiring all unvaccinated and partially vaccinated employees to undergo weekly COVID tests – and provide proof of a negative test result.

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More than 500 Mecklenburg County employees have been suspended for failing to meet county requirements for COVID-19 vaccination and testing. David T. Foster III [email protected]

The cost of the weekly tests is covered by insurance, county spokeswoman Pam Escobar told The Observer.

Diorio, who announced the policy in early August amid fears over the highly contagious delta variant, failed to impose a vaccine mandate on all county employees. But Mecklenburg County public health workers need to be vaccinated.

Unlike the city of Charlotte, Mecklenburg does not offer financial incentives to encourage more employees to get vaccinated against COVID-19. City manager Marcus Jones has yet to impose a similar weekly COVID testing protocol for unvaccinated Charlotte government employees.

Nearly 74% of county employees are vaccinated on Friday, according to the latest information shared with the Observer. This compares to 69.6% last week. Only 85.4% of public health workers in Mecklenburg County are immunized, although it is the only department facing a vaccination warrant.

In comparison, only 54% of all residents of Mecklenburg County are fully vaccinated, according to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services.

County officials did not reveal to The Observer on Friday how many employees had been approved for medical or religious immunization exemptions.

Suspensions of the department of Mecklenburg

The Parks and Recreation Department had the highest number of employees suspended for non-compliance: 135. This represents 18% of the staff. The majority of these suspended employees – 106 – are part-time or temporary workers.

The Department of Social Services had the second highest total number of suspensions, with 69 full-time workers suspended out of 81 employees suspended in total. That’s 7% of the staff.

The Board of Elections saw the biggest drop in suspensions following the county verification process. Officials on Thursday said 101 employees – or 79% of the department – had been suspended. On Friday, the number dropped to just nine suspended employees, or 7% of the department.

Library spokeswoman Asha Ellison told The Observer that 34 of the library’s 428 employees were suspended on Wednesday for failing to follow the COVID-19 testing policy.

And sheriff’s office spokeswoman Janet Parker told The Observer the office had no non-compliant employees – even though the office reported one of the lowest vaccination rates among the agencies. county, with 58.9% of the 1,019 full-time employees vaccinated Friday.

Suspensions, dismissals

The county explained its COVID-19 testing policy in a public meeting with employees Thursday morning and then posted online.

Officials faced nearly 50 minutes of questions from employees at the meeting, as well as complaints about long waits at test sites.

Fully vaccinated county employees must submit proof of vaccination to human resources, county human resources manager Paula Woodhouse told employees. And unvaccinated employees, or employees who are partially vaccinated, must submit a negative COVID-19 test result to human resources every seven days, she said.

Anyone missing the seven-day deadline will be immediately suspended without pay, she said. And any employee who does not comply for two consecutive weeks will be terminated.

List of suspensions

Here is the full breakdown of suspensions by county department, including all employees:

â–ª Asset and Facility Management: 3 suspended employees (8% of the department)

â–ª County Attorney’s Office: 0 suspended employee

â–ª Internal Audit Office: 0 suspended employee

â–ª County assessor office: 5 suspended employees (5% of the department)

â–ª Criminal justice services: 2 suspended employees (3% of the department)

â–ª Community support services: 8 suspended employees (5% of the department)

â–ª Community Resources Department: 4 suspended employees (2% of the department)

â–ª Departmental social services: 69 suspended employees (6% of the department)

â–ª Economic Development Office: 1 employee suspended (13% of the department)

â–ª Election office: 9 suspended employees (7% of the department)

â–ª County Finance Department: 5 suspended employees (4% of the department)

â–ª Historic Monuments Commission: 0 suspended employee (0% of the department)

â–ª Public health service: 30 suspended employees (4% of the service)

â–ª Human Resources Department: 0 suspended employee

â–ª IT Services Department: 6 suspended employees (4% of the department)

â–ª Regional Planning and Environmental Services Department: 34 suspended employees (7% of the department)

â–ª Medical Examiner’s Office: 0 suspended employee

â–ª County Director’s Office: 5 suspended employees (8% of the department)

â–ª Public Information Service: 0 suspended employee

â–ª Parks and Recreation Department: 135 suspended employees (18% of the service)

â–ª Register of acts: 3 suspended employees (8% of the department)

â–ª Receiver’s office: 4 suspended employees (9% of the department)

This story was originally published September 17, 2021 10:21 am.

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Hannah Smoot covers business in Charlotte, focusing on healthcare, aviation and sports. She has been covering COVID-19 in North Carolina since March 2020. She previously covered money and power at the Rock Hill Herald in South Carolina and is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Alison Kuznitz is a local government reporter for The Charlotte Observer, covering Mecklenburg City Council and the County Council of Commissioners. Since March, she has also reported on COVID-19 in North Carolina. She previously interned at the Boston Globe, Hartford Courant and Hearst Connecticut Media Group, and graduated from Penn State.
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