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Guilford County Health Department says focus for health rules enforcement is on education, not fines

The Guilford County Commissioners and Health Director talked more about the new health rules adopted just last week, to help stop the spread of COVID-19.

GREENSBORO, N.C. — It's another layer in the effort to keep people safe, and although fines could be involved for some who don't obey, the Guilford County Health Department said education comes first.

"Hire additional public health educators since we know that we are really trying to address this from a public health perspective," said Guilford County Health Director Dr. Iulia Vann. 

Vann said education is key when it comes to the health rules the board of commissioners adopted just last week.

The rules give the health department the ability to enforce rules like mask-wearing, capacity limits, and the new curfew that closes businesses by 10 p.m.

Since the rules went into place, Dr. Vann said the county has received about 30 complaints per day.

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"Twenty to 35 percent of reports coming through are restaurants and our environmental health inspectors are the ones that will be assigned those reports to look into those more," said Vann. 

Penalties range from fines up to $500 to temporary closures. Businesses could also be fined $100 for each person over the capacity limit.

So far, they've only given out advice.

Commissioners said they hope complaints go down as people become more educated.

RELATED: Guilford County Commissioners adopt health rule regarding COVID-19 penalties to enforce Governor Cooper's executive orders

Alan Branson wants to pump the breaks when it comes to smacking small businesses with fines, saying they've been through enough already.

"Folks are struggling. Folks are struggling to keep the doors open whether it's an essential or nonessential business," said Branson, "My recommendation would be that Guilford County move gently and tread lightly on this particular matter."

The health department has trained its staff for enforcement..

Board of Commissioners Chair Skip Alston said people won't be fined until the second visit from the county. 

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