Two Deaths Connected To United House Of Prayer Cluster; NC To Pause in Phase Three

CHARLOTTE, NC – Health officials in Mecklenburg County said on Wednesday that at least two people have died after contracting COVID-19 at a United House of Prayer convocation event in West Charlotte.

The new information comes on the same day that state officials say key metrics are moving in the wrong direction. The metrics prompted a continuation of Phase Three of the reopen plan for another three weeks.

“I’m hopeful they will comply,” said Mecklenburg County Deputy Health Director Dr. Raynard Washington during a news conference.

He says he’s personally told the United House of Prayer on Beatties Ford Rd to not hold anymore large gatherings.

“We are unaware of just how many individuals were potentially exposed or may come to be infectious either with or without symptoms so we are continuing to monitor the situation closely,” said Washington.

According to Washington, 68 people have contracted COVID-19 from convocation events at the church earlier this month. There have been at least four hospitalizations and two deaths.

“Our work to prevent the spread of this virus remains critical,” said Governor Roy Cooper during a news conference.

The news of deaths from the church cluster comes as key metrics across the state are moving in the wrong direction. Governor Cooper announced a continuation of Phase Three until November 13th.

“Last Thursday and Friday we had our highest number of daily cases reported since the start of the pandemic,” said Dr. Mandy Cohen, the State Health Director.

State officials sent a letter to counties offering suggestions in order to slow the spread. The note included tighter restrictions than the state has in place.

“We hope our local communities can work with us to move some of our troubling trends in the right direction,” said Cooper.

“I certainly wouldn’t like to see us move backwards because that doesn’t mean good things for any of us,” said Marie Carnes, the Bar Manager at Burtons Grill in South Park.

Local restaurants like Burtons are hanging on with 50%capacity. They’ve added outdoor seating and brought in space heaters for the colder months ahead.

Carnes says following guidelines is their only option.

“If we can get this economy jump-started again and really give the industry as a whole an opportunity to recover some this year,” said Carnes.

The North Carolina unemployment rate jumped to 7.3% in September. That is up from 6.5% in August.

Phase three runs until at least November 13th.