By Collin Cunningham
(CHARLOTTE, N.C.) Happy Friday, Queen City residents! It is Feb. 11, and Charlotte will be sunny today with a 67-degree high around 3 p.m. and an overnight dip of 44, with the weekend set to follow suit. Catch the six-day weather forecast below for more.
Before we close out the week, the Roundup informs readers that Mecklenburg County may end its mask mandate as early as next week amid declining COVID-19 numbers. We'll give you the latest data update, and detail a deployment of 2,000 soldiers from North Carolina's Fort Bragg to Eastern Europe to aid with the Russia-Ukraine situation.
LaMelo Ball became the NBA's fourth-youngest All-Star earlier this week, and a second Charlotte sports icon received a nod as late Panthers linebacker Sam Mills prepares to enter the Pro Football Hall of Fame. We'll also give readers something to do over the weekend with our Reading List.
1. Meck. Co. Health Director: Mask mandate could end as early as next week as NC officials recommend change to school quarantines
What happened: Speaking to Mecklenburg County commissioners on Wednesday, Health Director Dr. Raynard Washington said he could submit a proposal to end the county's indoor mask mandate as soon as Feb. 16. The news comes after county health officials witnessed a drop in 7-day percent positivity rates between Feb. 2 and 8, from 22.7% to 18.5%. That number reached 32% in January.
Why it matters: Mecklenburg's mask mandate has been in effect since Aug. 31 of 2021, and commissioners seem happy to see it go. District 5 Commissioner Laura Meier said she is "looking forward to it" and District 6 Commissioner Susan Rodriguez-McDowell said, "We need to learn how to live with this."
In other news related to COVID-19 policy, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services announced on Thursday that it will stop requiring public schools to quarantine students following exposure to the coronavirus. The ruling will take effect on Feb. 21, and The Charlotte Observer reported that Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools will collude with the county on future plans.
CMS put 709 students and 122 staff members in quarantine during the week of Feb. 2 and 8 after detecting 572 positive cases among students and 92 among employees, according to its COVID-19 dashboard. On Tuesday, the district's Board of Education voted to continue its districtwide mask mandate.
What happened: Fort Bragg dispensed 2,000 soldiers to Europe following a request from President Joe Biden's last week. Germany will receive 300 troops while the remaining 1,700, mostly comprised of the Fayetteville base's 82nd Airborne Division, started landing at Poland's Rzeszow-Jasionka airport roughly 100 miles from the eastern border of Ukraine on Sunday, per FOX8.
The move comes in response to Russian troop buildup on the opposite end of the country, where President Vladimir Putin has placed over 100,000 of its own troops, per BBC.
Why it matters: The news came before Biden said U.S. citizens should get out of Ukraine at their earliest possible convenience with no plans for military members to mount a rescue operatoin. "It’s not like we’re dealing with a terrorist organization," Biden told NBC News on Thursday. "We’re dealing with one of the largest armies in the world."
In other news related to Fort Bragg, a bus carrying soldiers from the installation crashed en route to a Charlotte Hornets game on Wednesday, WRAL reported. Nobody from the 82nd Airborne sustained injuries, but the driver of the car that collided with the bus went to the hospital and the bus passengers didn't make it in time to see the Chicago Bulls bulldoze Charlotte, 121-109.
Speaking of sports in the Queen City...
After racking up 331 tackles during three seasons with the Panthers, late linebacker Sam Mills is set to tackle a new milestone: joining the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Aug. 6. Mills, who died from stomach cancer at the age of 45 in 2005, also spent 1986-94 setting records for the New Orleans Saints.
The Ohio-based PFHOF announced Mills' posthumous induction at a ceremony on Thursday, making him the third Carolina player to enter the books following Reggie White and Kevin Greene.
In a press release, Panthers owner David Tepper called Thursday a "great day" for his franchise. "When I got here, Sam was a great player, but I didn't realize how deeply his message resonated with fans across both Carolinas. There's a determination, a spirit of not ever quitting, no matter what the odds, that embodied what Sam Mills was all about."
4. Six-day weather forecast, Feb. 11 to 17
Charlotte appears to have said sayonara to snow for the season, but moisture is expected to hit on Sunday with a 32% chance of rain on Sunday before more substantial potential for droplets on Wednesday and Thursday.
5. Weekend reading list
It was a busy week in Charlotte. and the Roundup can only be so long. Here are a few stories that weren't touched upon this week but are still deserving of readers' attention.
- Cheslie Kryst, the former Miss USA and North Carolina who died by suicide in New York City last week, is getting a public memorial ceremony in Charlotte on Friday, Feb. 18. Elevation Church in the city's Provincetown neighborhood is hosting the celebration of life, which starts at 6:30 p.m. and will be livestreamed, though family members did not say which platform will host it.
- The 2020 pandemic has the University of North Carolina at Charlotte turning its vision to the future. The school announced a Center for Computational Intelligence to Predict Health and Environmental Risks, with the goal of identifying diseases that could lead to future widespread public health events.
- Sam Mills wasn't the only former Panthers player to make headlines this week. Since last Friday, retired tight end Greg Olsen sounded off about the COVID-19 pandemic and sat down with Charlotte Magzine to discuss his philanthropic foundation and its recent partnership with a local retsaurant.