GUILFORD COUNTY, N.C. — Masks are coming back in Guilford County. Whether you live in Greensboro, High Point, or Summerfield – masks will be required countywide starting Friday at 5 p.m.
The Guilford County Board of Commissioners, acting as the County Board of Health, voted 7-2 to reinstate indoor mask rules on Tuesday. It comes as hospitalizations and COVID-19 cases are rising, and not enough people are getting vaccinated.
County commission chair Skip Alston said it’s a move they didn’t want to make, but it was necessary.
“I want to take the mask mandate away as soon as possible, but that is going to be up to the cooperation of our citizens,” he said.
The mandate is for everyone – even fully vaccinated people.
“We have to do something. We cannot continue to sit by and think that this virus is going to solve itself,” Alston said.
Emergency Management Director Don Campbell said masking up is important until enough people get vaccinated.
“I really look at it a little bit like a wildfire. If we can stop this while we’ve got just a few embers…we are going to be able to get out of masks and really get back to normal much quicker. If we let it continue to go, then we are going to be in real trouble this fall,” Campbell said.
Health director Dr. Iulia Vann said they’re doing everything they can to inform and educate people about the COVID-19 vaccine.
“(We’ve) done well providing them with a variety of options to get vaccinated,” Vann said. “The vaccines are safe and efficient."
Vann said the county is looking at hospitalizations, new cases, the rate of positive tests, and the latest CDC recommendations when making decisions.
County officials said they will re-evaluate the rule as needed. Their goal is a 70% vaccination rate or a percent positive rate of 5% or lower, for three weeks in a row.
Businesses and Enforcement
Business owner Seth Mapes of the Bearded Goat bar said he’s glad the mandate doesn’t mean capacity limits for his establishment.
“We’re all willing to do what needs to be done to get through it all,” Mapes said.
A barista at Green Bean on Elm explained how they will address customers who don't comply.
"We will kindly ask them, hey we have some masks here they are free you can just take one and put it on, and as soon as you get back outside you’re free to take it off," Justin Cundall said. "As long as you're inside we ask you to wear it. If they don’t want to comply we can serve them out here, but we have to make sure they don’t come in to put our customers inside following the mask mandate in jeopardy.”
Some Guilford County residents said they don't mind masking back up if it keeps people safe.
"I really don’t think it will last long if people comply and do what they are supposed to do, but trying to get everybody on board is the hardest part," Deirdre Grades said. "So, I just got my fingers crossed.”
“I think people get a mixed reaction," Anne Denny said. "I think some people will definitely do it and have been doing it. I think other people will just refuse to do it.”
As far as enforcement of the mask mandate, county leaders are looking more to educate than to fine those who are not compliant.
“If you obey the rule, you don’t have any problem with the fines. If you intentionally try to disregard the rule, then we are going to fine you,” Alston said.
Businesses are subject to a $300 fine for the first violation, $500 for a second, and $1,500 for each additional violation that follows. You could even be fined $50 for not wearing a mask inside after an initial warning.