Guilford County leaders ready to get tougher with enforcement on COVID control

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GUILFORD COUNTY, N.C. — Enough is enough. As coronavirus cases soar, Guilford County leaders are ready to get tougher with enforcement on COVID control.

Beds at Cone Health’s Green Valley COVID Hospital are filling up fast.

The health system hit a new record high for COVID hospitalization. 117 people are getting treated throughout their facilities.

As the health care system across Guilford County gets strained, county leaders say it appears people are not taking the virus as seriously as they should.

Penalties will start to be put in place.

“We’re at war, and this is a war against something we can’t see,” Greensboro Mayor Nancy Vaughan said.

“It’s scary. We need to make sure people know it’s a scary moment in our history,” Guilford County Commissioner Skip Alston said.

The stakes are high.

295 new cases were reported in Guilford County on Wednesday.

There have been close to 14,000 confirmed cases since the start of the health crisis.

“There are health implications but there are also huge economic implications,” Vaughan said. “We don’t want to see the worst-case happen here.”

On Monday, members of a newly formed COVID taskforce in the county addressed the lack of compliance and the promise of punishment in the form of a fine.

“If they don’t comply at that point, we would take more stringent measures,” Alston said.

Vaughn is worried that fines are not enough.

“That becomes the cost of doing business,” she said. “[Business owners will say] ‘Oh, I know police are going to come in and they’re going to give me a $500 fine. But I can make more money and still pay the fine.'”

County Health Director Dr. Iulia Vann and her staff are prepared for their new role to enforce.

“Through notices of violation as well as abatement orders, which would pretty much give us the ability to temporarily cease operations of a particular place that is not following directions or the Executive Order,” she said.

To do that, the health department would need to prove that COVID transmission is tied to the business.

So for now, Vann is working with her legal team to find creative civil enforcement methods.

“We can’t allow people to disobey and disrespect the ordinances that are put in place to help people in the community,” Alston said.

The plan is to roll out guidelines and enforcement measures by the first weekend of December.

Vaughan told FOX8 she is also considering using the fire department and code enforcement to help with the crackdown.

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