13 Percent of Government Employees in North Carolina County Suspended Over Vaccine Mandate

Over 13 percent of government workers in North Carolina's second-largest county were subject to suspension without pay after failing to submit mandatory COVID-19 test results or proof of vaccination on Wednesday.

Mecklenburg County said that 598 employees, representing 13.5 percent of all workers, were to be suspended for refusing the follow the pandemic rules, according to The Charlotte Observer. The non-compliant workers consisted of 290 full-time employees and 308 part-time or temporary employees. They included 128 workers from the Mecklenburg County Department of Social Services, 221 employees of the Mecklenburg County Parks and Recreation Department and 149 other county employees.

Administrative differences meant that county library and Sheriff's office employees were included in the count of workers facing suspension, raising the possibility that the true number is significantly higher. Mecklenburg County Commissioner Chairman George Dunlap told the paper that the suspensions started on Tuesday, although it was not clear how many employees were already suspended by Wednesday evening.

"Unvaccinated Mecklenburg County Employees who have not submitted a negative COVID-19 test in the last seven days will receive suspension notices starting today, and will remain on unpaid suspension until proof of a vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test is confirmed," the county said in a statement, according to Fox affiliate WJZY.

"With approximately 70 percent of all employees vaccinated, Mecklenburg County remains committed to providing a safe work environment for all employees, as a well as a safe a safe experience for our customers," the statement continued. "The county has enacted this process to meet the highest standard of COVID-19 prevention possible."

North Carolina County Workers Vaccine Mandate Suspensions
Close to 600 government workers in North Carolina's Mecklenburg County are facing suspension without pay for refusing to comply with a mandate to provide proof of COVID-19 vaccination or weekly test results. This undated file photo shows a cardboard sign reading "Job Wanted" sitting on a street next to a discarded face mask. JJ Gouin/Getty

Last week, county data showed that the vaccination rate was around 70 percent for full-time employees. However, the rate for part-time employees was lagging far behind, with fewer than 40 percent having confirmed vaccinations. The rate was highest among employees of the Mecklenburg County Health Department, where almost 85 percent of workers were vaccinated.

The new requirements went into effect on September 7. County Manager Dena Diorio announced in early August, amid a Delta variant-driven surge of the virus, that county workers would soon need to provide proof of vaccination or submit to weekly COVID-19 tests. The county also has a mask mandate for anyone who enters indoor public places.

The vaccine or testing requirement for government workers is stricter at the county level than in Charlotte, the Mecklenburg County seat and North Carolina's largest city. Officials in the city, where around 62 percent of government employees have received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine, have not ordered a vaccine mandate but are offering a $250 incentive for workers who get vaccinated by the end of the month.

Newsweek reached out to Mecklenburg County for comment.