Guilford County commissioners issue mask mandate during meeting

Piedmont Triad News

GUILFORD COUNTY, N.C. (WGHP) — Guilford County officials issued a mask mandate during a meeting on Tuesday to discuss the rising COVID rates in the county.

The mandate with passed a 7 to 2 vote and will go into effect on Friday at 5 p.m. for public indoor facilities.

The Guilford County Board of Commissioners met in their capacity as the county Board of Health at 3 p.m.

A civil violation will not be issued for a first warning. After the first warning, there could be $300, $500, $1500 penalties incrementally for the same party on subsequent violations.

The board of commissioners says the money collected in North Carolina for penalties will go to public schools.

On Monday, three county commissioners and several mayors were briefed by the Guilford County Emergency Management team and leaders from Cone Health in a closed-door meeting.

“We have to take some action in order to help our citizens,” said Skip Alston, the chairman of the Guilford County Board of Commissioners.

Business owners in the county are gearing up to have their customers mask up. 

“It’s a little discouraging the second time around,” said Kyle Terrell, the manager at Jake’s Pub and Billiards in Greensboro. “It might be a little more difficult for us to enforce the second time around.” 

He didn’t expect something like a mask mandate this soon. Starting Friday, he’s left to make his customers mask up again indoors. 

“It felt like we were finally getting through with everything and then to just got right back to it is another hurdle for us to cross,” he said. 

Customers are mixed on the new rule.  

“I’m vaccinated, but I still have been wearing my mask,” said Tabitha Machia, who supports the mask mandate. “I think we opened up too soon. think we needed to wait a little while to kind of get ahead of it more.” 

“I’m not a big fan of the masks, it’s just hard to breathe and all this. It’s annoying to wear,” said Peter Campbell, who opposes the mask mandate. “I almost have to go buy some more, got to make sure I have them, make sure I didn’t throw away all my other ones because I didn’t think I’d have to anymore.” 

COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are on the rise in the county as the highly contagious delta variant continues to spread.

The most recent data on the Guilford County COVID-19 Case Count showed 625 added cases, 1,851 active cases and a 7.9 percent test positivity rate over the past 14 days.

Alston said the county is nowhere near herd immunity. Only 50 percent of people in the county are fully vaccinated, according to the NCDHHS COVID-19 Dashboard. It reports 54 percent of people are vaccinated with one dose.

The new health rule requires everyone, no matter vaccination status, to wear a mask while indoors.  

“This is not a vaccination or a mask,” said Dr. Iulia Vann, the Guilford County Public Health director. “This is a vaccination and a mask to prevent the community spread even better.” 

Vann stressed to the Board of Health that masks are needed now more than ever. She said the Delta variant is responsible for 90% of new cases.

There are some exceptions to this rule including if you have a medical condition, are eating or drinking, or are in your car or office. This also applies to religious ceremonies including weddings and funerals. 

The board of health will re-evaluate the need for the mask mandate when the county reaches a 70 percent vaccination rate, compared to 50 percent now or when the case positivity rate drops to 5 percent or below, compared to 15.6% on Tuesday.

According to Cone Health officials, 78 people were being treated for the virus in the hospital system on Monday. It is the highest number of COVID-19 patients since March 3.

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