Guilford County-wide advisory group aimed at tackling crippling numbers of coronavirus cases

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GUILFORD COUNTY, N.C. — Guilford County Commissioner Skip Alston is leading a new county-wide advisory group aimed at tackling the crippling numbers of coronavirus cases in the county and preventing new ones. It’s made up of health care, business and community leaders.

“Hindsight is 2020, this is something that should’ve been implemented months ago,” said Alston, after finishing the second meeting with the 35-member group. “We are in a very desperate situation.”

It is a situation he said is getting worse by the day. On Monday, lines for testing stretched out of the parking lot at Moses Cone’s Green Valley Hospital location and the number of hospital beds continues to shrink.

“Some people are not taking this virus seriously,” Alston said. “They’re thinking it’s a hoax.”

He wants to hold people accountable. It’s already happening in Greensboro as police officers have stopped by more than 180 businesses so far including Toys and Co. in Friendly Center.

“We certainly weren’t expecting them to come by,” Toys and Co. Operations Manager Marc Holcomb said. “We were all actually pleased that they were following up on the new rules.”

While most business owners are following the strengthened mask mandate and occupancy limits, some are pushing the boundaries. Alston’s new county-wide proposal cracks down on business owners. Officers will first give a warning, then fines up to $500 and the possibility of temporarily closing the business if the problem isn’t fixed.

“The health director has the authority to shut you down,” Alston said. “They can take away your permit for your sanitation grade. There are a lot of harsh options that are there that can be in our toolbox.”

The advisory group is even looking at hiring four full-time employees responsible for verifying complaints and issuing violations.

“We are trying to take this out of the law enforcement’s hand and put it all mostly into the county health department,” he said.

In order to drive coronavirus cases down it’ll take cooperation and patience.

“This is government for their citizens,” Alston said. “We are caring for our citizens because our citizens have elected us to see them safe.”

Guilford County Commissioners will consider the ordinance proposal in early December. There’s no specific timeline for how long this ordinance could last if it’s approved. Alston anticipates it lasting between six to nine months or until a vaccine is distributed.

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