Guilford County could see face mask mandate return as soon as Tuesday

Piedmont Triad News

GUILFORD COUNTY, N.C. (WGHP) — Leaders in Guilford County gathered to do their part to help control the spread of the coronavirus as hospitalizations have soared. It could mean mandatory masking as soon as Tuesday.

Guilford County commissioners met with local mayors and health experts for four hours to discuss bringing back the mask mandate on Monday. 

Chairman Skip Alston called the mayors and asked them to sign on immediately as the daily case percent positive is at 32.3% in the county.

“We have to learn how to deal with it and also how to live with it,” Alston said.

Alston told FOX8 one way of dealing with it includes the return of a mask mandate.

On Tuesday, the Guilford County Board of Commissioners announced plans for a 3 p.m. news conference to offer an update on the recent meeting.

He said with a percent positive six times higher than where health experts want us to be the county is in state of emergency. Hospitals are strained and preparing for an omicron variant peak early next week.

“They are the ones who are caring for the sick, they are the ones who are having to put their patients in the morgue after they die,” Alston said. “They are the ones who have to tend to the patients in the hallways, not in a hospital room.”

Alston said 70 people have died of COVID-19 since the mask mandate was lifted in November 2021.

If the mayors do not support the decision the earliest a mask mandate could legally happen is January 13, when the county commissioners meet as the board of health meets to vote on it.

“In order to make this work and make it effective we need all of their support, especially support of our big cities of High Point and Greensboro,” Alston said.

High Point Mayor Jay Wagner has never been a fan of mandating face coverings.

“I don’t think mandates are the way to go,” Wagner said. “I think we’re far enough into this where people have had the opportunity to get vaccinated, they know what to do, we’re not educating people at this point, they know what to do.”

He feels it should be a personal choice.

“Sooner or later we have to reach the point where we’re comfortable saying that people are able to make their own risk assessments and go about their lives again,” Wagner said.

Greensboro Mayor Nancy Vaughan told FOX8 she’s committed to working with Guilford County officials through increased, messaging and signage. 

She believes just increasing our vaccination rate by 1% will significantly reduce the spread of COVID-19 in the community.

Alston told FOX8 the health department is already getting a team together to enforce masking including 14 health inspectors.

“We will have to galvanize our troops again in order to possibly hire more people over the next ten days,” Alston said. “That would give us time to, in order to see how we might be in a position to bring more people on the enforcement team.” 

FOX8 expects to learn more by mid-morning Tuesday. 

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