MECKLENBURG COUNTY, N.C. (FOX 46 CHARLOTTE) — The next time you see a Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Deputy out in public, you may notice a small green wristband.
“I am wearing one of the wristbands,” said Sheriff Garry McFadden.
The wristband announces that McFadden, and whoever else is wearing one, is fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
Originally, McFadden came up with the idea to shorten the line every morning at the Sheriff’s Office.
“We would come in in the morning and we would have 20, 30, 40 people in line,” said McFadden, describing the screening process that includes temperature checks and a questionnaire. “So we had to come up with a new initiative to move people faster through the lobby.”
With a green wristband, people are able to clear through the screening process faster. According to McFadden, it’s the first such agency in the country to install a wristband policy.
While it may have started out as a logistical effort, it’s since turned into something more.
“Now people are looking down to see if we have (a wristband). It gives them a sense of security knowing that we are vaccinated,” McFadden said.
And it gives the Sheriff a sense of security too.
COVID-19 is the #1 killer of law enforcement officers in the U.S. in 2020 and 2021, according to the non-profit Officer Down Memorial Page.
According to their records, 198 law enforcement officers have died from complications of the coronavirus this year. Of the 20 law enforcement officers who have died in North and South Carolina this year, more than half of them, 11, have died from the virus.
“We do have a lot of COVID related death that are unknown to the public,” said McFadden. “It has hit us hard. Very hard.”
McFadden says thankfully none of his deputies at the MCSO have died from the virus. But just this week, he sent deputies down to Wilmington to the funeral of a 30-year veteran of the New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office who died from COVID-19.
McFadden explains the wristbands don’t cost a lot of money, “but it shows that we are taking this seriously.”
Employees of the MCSO aren’t required to get vaccinated against COVID-19, though county records indicate that 65% of the employees have received the shots.
But those who aren’t vaccinated have to get weekly negative COVID tests.
“If you don’t have a nice green wristband, you’re gonna have to go tested every seven days,” said McFadden. “So people say ‘I’m tired of doing that so I’m gonna go get a shot.’”