The Guilford County Council of Commissioners met virtually at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, November 2 with Guilford County Health Director Dr Iulia Vann and Dr Christopher Ohl, an infectious disease expert at Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, to hear the reports. on COVID-19 transmission rates in Guilford County and to discuss whether to lift the mask warrant that has been in effect since August.
Based on that discussion, all indications are that the mandate will be lifted on Monday, November 15 when the commissioners meet as the Guilford County Board of Health. (The Board of Commissioners became the County Board of Health about eight years ago, when the commissioners voted to abolish the old Board of Health.)
The November date for the ban review assumes that the number of COVID-19 cases in the county does not increase during this time; However, during the virtual meeting, all parties seemed comfortable with the end of the term on November 15.
In August, the council of commissioners approved the mask mandate which imposed fines on anyone who did not wear a mask indoors in public places such as shops, restaurants and theaters. The fines apply to people who do not hide inside as well as to companies that do not enforce the warrant.
Guilford County Commissioner Justin Conrad – one of three commissioners who voted against the mask mandate last August – has been pleading for weeks for the mandate to end. He said just before the November 2 meeting that he heard from “30 or 40” people that day who wanted the warrant to be lifted.
Conrad also said ahead of the virtual meeting that he believed the votes were there to lift the mandate immediately. However, he added, the legal process to overturn the mask ordinance required 10 days’ notice to the public that the review was being considered.
During the Zoom meeting, Guilford County Attorney Mark Payne acknowledged that state law requires 10 days public notice before the board of directors can make any changes to the ordinance. masks – including repeal.
The public notice will be released on Wednesday, November 3, and the board will meet to consider repealing on November 15 – the first day of the week it is allowed to do so.
Commissioner James Upchurch, after asking questions of medical experts and confirming that Guilford County was in the middle of the pack statewide when it came to COVID0-19 rates, questioned the effectiveness of require masks.
“We have the mask mandate but we’re still in the middle of everyone, and I find that interesting,” Upchurch said.
He also said that counties similar in size to Guilford County that do not have a mandate are seeing “numbers like ours.”
Vann informed the board of directors that over the past three weeks, the county’s positivity rate has been below 5%. In the most recent week with full statistics available, the county had a 4.3% positivity rate. Three consecutive weeks below the 5% mark was one of the criteria that the council set itself in August as a goal to lift the mandate.
“It was one of the metrics the board wanted to use,” Vann said. “This one has been met and we are talking about the mandate of the mask here. “
Dr Ohl suggested that maintaining the warrant for a few weeks should allow some newly eligible children to be vaccinated and that the number of cases would decline further before the warrant is lifted.
Ohl also said that several counties in North Carolina were planning to cancel mask warrants in mid-November, so, he added, if Guilford County did, the decision would be in line with that of other cities and counties in the state where leaders planned to do even right before the Thanksgiving holiday.
“We’re all knocking on the same doors right now,” Ohl told the board.
He warned that the following holiday season could lead to an increase in cases.
Vann also said Guilford County appeared to be on a path that would allow him to lift the mandate later this month.
“It looks like these measures are going to get there in the next two weeks,” Vann said of some COVID-19 targets that she believes should be met before she ends the mandate.
Chairman of the Council of Commissioners Skip Alston said he called the November 2 meeting to seek expert advice because he wanted the council’s decisions to be “based on facts, not fear. and politics “.