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Mecklenburg County health officials worried about COVID case counts in surrounding areas

"We are seeing these increases all around us, we need to anticipate what may happen in Mecklenburg county," Mecklenburg County Health Director Gibbie Harris said.

MECKLENBURG COUNTY, N.C. — Daily COVID-19 case counts are climbing in North Carolina. The state reported more than 1,900 cases Wednesday. But in Mecklenburg County, health officials said the trends are stable, but they're worried about spikes in surrounding counties.

Cleveland and Lincoln reporting a 200% increase over the last 30 days, and health officials say Gaston County hospitalizations have tripled over the past month.

No place is immune from coronavirus or the fear it can bring.

"The majority of the country is in red right now," Mecklenburg County Health Director Gibbie Harris said.

Mecklenburg County COVID-19 numbers are steady, but surrounding counties are seeing a spike.

"We are hearing that the hospitals in the western part of the state are overwhelmed and they are diverting patients to the Charlotte-area and Winston Salem area," Harris said. 

According to the state health department, in Mecklenburg County, there is a 4.4% positivity rate for COVID-19. In other counties, numbers are almost double.

Gaston County is at 9%, Cleveland County is at 9.4%, and Lincoln County is at 10%.

"Recognizing the fact that we are seeing these increases all around us, we need to anticipate what may happen in Mecklenburg county," Harris said.

"As a regional provider county, the beds will fill up quickly," Vice-Chair of the Mecklenburg County Commissioners Elaine Powell said.

There are unique challenges to fight the virus in more rural communities. While social distancing can come with the territory, a spread-thin health system could be stretched to the limit.

"I think it's the normal course of COVID-19," Gaston County Commissioner, Tracy Philbeck said.

Philbeck said in Gaston County the virus is top of mind, and transferring patients to other areas is nothing new.

"It does happen to all health care systems," Philbeck said. "There are certain times that our hospitals and things have to do diversions to Charlotte and vice versa. That's actually happened with the flu before." 

Lincoln County officials also say the surge was anticipated, releasing a statement saying, in part: 

"Even with control measures in place, as we continue to adjust to normalcy within our daily schedules, there will inevitably be an increase in transmission," Lincoln County Health Department, Deputy Health Director Lena Jones said. 

Mecklenburg County leaders are concerned that COVID-19 cases could spike over the next few weeks, especially because of cooler weather. 

Right now, hospitals are in good shape when it comes to capacity.