GREENSBORO, N.C. — The Guilford County Board of Health voted Thursday night to reinstate a countywide mask mandate.
Previously, the mask policy only applied to Gibsonville, Sedalia, Pleasant Garden, and Jamestown. It did not include Greensboro or High Point.
With the mandate reinstated, all of the county, including both cities, will have to comply.
"Masks required" signs started to reappear in shop windows in downtown Greensboro Thursday evening.
"I am glad that they reinstated it," Amanda Baughman said.
She owns Gate City Yarns and said many of her customers are older and medically vulnerable. Some of them have been staying home with cases spiking.
"I am terrified working with the public that I am helping with the spread of it," Baughman said.
Restaurant Operations Manager Kevin Ash at Machete said they were already requiring masks for staff.
"We are appreciative that the county's leaders are backing this and trying to limit the spread," Ash said.
County commissioners met as a Board of Health and approved the countywide mandate 6-3. Commissioner James Upchurch voted against bringing it back, in part because of enforcement.
"The public kind of thinks this board is a joke because of enforcement and I brought those concerns up the last time we were in this situation," Upchurch said.
Chairman Skip Alston pushed back saying those who don't follow the masking rules could face fines.
"This board is not a joke," Alston said. "Our enforcement policies have been in place. We did issue warnings and citations."
Health officials urged county leaders to bring the mask mandate back. Cone Health said it was treating 304 COVID-positive patients Thursday which is a new record. Four hundred staff members are out due to COVID, including 100 nurses. The health system said it also had 41 COVID deaths since Christmas.
"This is a terrible disease," Cone Health CEO Mary Jo Cagle said. "I understand that most people are able to stay home and most don't have to go to the ICU but when it's bad, it's really bad."
This mandate will remain in effect until February 27 unless the board makes a change.
Higher vaccination rates or a drop in cases could lead them to re-evaluate sooner.