Guilford County discusses rescinding mask mandate by mid-November; business owners react

Piedmont Triad News

GUILFORD COUNTY, N.C. (WGHP) – The Guilford County mask mandate could be a thing of the past in less than two weeks.

At a Tuesday night meeting, commissioners acting at the health board voted unanimously to meet on Nov. 15 to “to consider amending or rescinding” the mandate 10 days before Thanksgiving. 

Triad health leaders point to the week before Thanksgiving when the county is projected to meet most of the metrics to drop the mask mandate.

According to the Guilford County COVID-19 data dashboard, the county has reported a less than 5% case positivity rate average for three weeks and steady vaccination rates.  

“It looks like these metrics are going to get there in the next couple of weeks,” said Dr. Iulia Vann, the Guilford County health director.

Vann cautioned that the county is still in a high community transmission category by CDC standards and winter is when case number could rise. 

“I think it’ll give a chance to get some kids vaccinated and some teachers to get boosted and such and then we should be in the comfort zone,” said Dr. Christopher Ohl, an infectious disease expert at Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist Health. 

It would be a switch for business owners who have asked customers to mask up since the revised mandate was approved in August, no matter the person’s vaccination status. It came after the state mandate ended. 

“I’d like to see it go through the end of the year because this is the time where the most people are going to be in the stores crowded together,” said Kathryn Hashemi, the owner of Just Be Boutique in downtown Greensboro. Hashemi told FOX8 keeping the masks on has put her customers at ease. “Mostly people want to see other people wearing masks when they’re in the store,” she said. 

According to Vann, a COVID-19 Mask Enforcement Team has handled 350 complaints, sent 11 warning letters, and issued three citations to county businesses not following the rule. 

“I think most people are ready for it to end,” said Christopher Reaves, the owner of ‘Cille and ‘Scoe Restaurant in downtown Greensboro.

Reaves said masking doesn’t make much of a difference in a restaurant environment. “We’re pretty much masking until you get to your table and start enjoying the meal anyways,” he said.

Whatever the health board decides these owners plan to make sure everyone who walks through the door is comfortable.  

“If we’re not able to keep it in the store then we’ll probably have to limit the amount of shoppers because we have a really tight space and people are going to be really close to each other,” Hashemi said.

The tables at ‘Cille and ‘Scoe will remain spaced apart. “Being mindful of those people who still want to come out and enjoy themselves and not feel like people are so on top of them.” 

Ohl said Winston-Salem leaders are also considering changes to the city-wide mask mandate around the same time.

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