What does the future hold for the Guilford County mask mandate?

Piedmont Triad News

GUILFORD COUNTY, N.C. (WGHP) – The Guilford County mask mandate could soon be a thing of the past.

A mixture of low cases, more vaccinations into people’s arms and a drop in hospitalizations means the Guilford County Commissioners, which serve as the county’s health board, may change the mandate or possibly do away with it altogether.

“There’s got to be an end and where people can get back to normalcy,” said Justin Conrad, a commissioner representing District 3.

The county has gone from a nearly 16% COVID-19 case positivity rate to a less than 5% since the revised mandate was issued on Aug. 10. It impacted everyone regardless of vaccination status.

“We have been through this for so long,” Conrad said. “Folks understand best practices, they understand the social distancing aspect.”

Conrad has called for an end to the mandate. He told FOX8 the rule has proven ineffective compared to other counties without one and it has rarely been enforced.

“We are at the number they wanted to be at,” Conrad said. “We’re there.”

Health leaders set a 5% positivity rate or less for three consecutive weeks or a 70% or greater vaccination rate to change or lift the mandate.

According to the Guilford County COVID-19 dashboard, there is a 4.3% positivity rate for the past 14 days. More than 78% of people who are eligible to get the shot have their first dose and nearly 54% are fully vaccinated. There are 55 people hospitalized with the virus.

Guilford County Board of Commissioners Chairman Skip Alston told FOX8 he called a meeting with the health director, emergency management staff and hospital leaders to get an update and recommendation on the mandate for Tuesday, Nov. 2.

“There’s a lot of factors out there,” Alston said. “It’s not just a positivity rate being below five percent.”

Alston pointed to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention COVID-19 transmission map which categorized Guilford County as high transmission denoted in red.

He said the mask mandate has worked to keep cases low. Since August, a mask enforcement team has handled 300 complaints, sent 11 warning letters, and issued two citations to county businesses not following the rule.

“The last thing I want to do is lift a mask mandate and then the positivity rate shoots back up to 13, 14, 15 percent within the next two weeks,” Alston said. “Then we have to come back and do the same thing all over again.”

Community members are still divided on whether to mask up.

“They can lift it,” Nitaya Blakeney said. “I think people should still decide if they really want to be out without their mask or not.”

“I know I don’t like mine no more than nobody else, but we need them on,” Danette Casey said.

Alston said the county needs to reach herd immunity before people should let their guard down. The county health board could vote to modify the mandate as early as the next county commissioners meeting on Thursday, Nov. 4.

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