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Mecklenburg COVID trends 'starting to accelerate,' officials say

Dr. Raynard Washington said Mecklenburg County has seen a 23% increase in new COVID-19 infections over the past 2 weeks, raising concerns about Thanksgiving travel.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Mecklenburg County leaders say COVID-19 trends in the Charlotte area are "starting to accelerate" as we get closer to Thanksgiving next week

To see if there's a community testing event near you, visit the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services' website.

County Manager Dena Diorio said Mecklenburg County remains in the "yellow" section of the new COVID alert system announced by Gov. Roy Cooper, but if trends hold steady, it won't be long until Mecklenburg becomes orange. The new three-tier COVID alert system pinpoints counties across North Carolina with the highest rates of community spread. So far, three counties in the Charlotte area are considered "critical" for COVID-19 spread.

Dr. Raynard Washington, the county's deputy health director, said there's been a 23% jump in new COVID-19 infections over the last two weeks. Washington said the county is testing more than 3,500 people on average per day. Washington said he anticipates Mecklenburg County to surpass 40,000 lab-confirmed cases of coronavirus when Friday's report is released. 

RELATED: Need a COVID-19 test before Thanksgiving? Here's where to go in Charlotte

Washington said it took Mecklenburg County 10 weeks to go from 20,000 to 30,000 cases, but the jump from 30,000 to 40,000 took just six weeks. 

In North Carolina, the Department of Health and Human Services' dashboard shows testing turnaround is about two days. There are new free testing sites across Mecklenburg and surrounding counties that will become available this weekend ahead of Thanksgiving.

RELATED: CDC urging Americans to stay home for Thanksgiving; state leaders encourage rapid COVID testing

"Were feeling good about the availability testing, our turn around time is just under two days," Washington said. 

Health officials warn, as testing capacity increase, delays may be in the future.

 "As more people are being tested the turn around time will probably start to extend just a bit," Washington said.

Don't see the video? Click here to watch the Mecklenburg County press conference

North Carolina announced a single-day record for new cases Thursday with over 4,200 being reported. Hospitalizations are also at their peak, with over 1,500 people in the hospital statewide due to the virus. So far, over 4,900 people have died from COVID-19 in North Carolina.

RELATED: CDC urging Americans to stay home for Thanksgiving; state leaders encourage rapid COVID testing

Officials are encouraging everyone to limit, or eliminate, Thanksgiving gatherings because of the coronavirus spread.

"We understand that is a big sacrifice we have to make ourselves, but the risk at this time is simply too great," Washington said. "Until we get to a point where the virus is under control we need our residents to do the right thing."