Chairman of the Guilford County Board of Commissioners Skip Alston has been getting some blowback over Guilford County’s standing mask mandate, but Alston said on Wednesday, Oct. 27, that, despite backlash, the mandate will remain in effect as long as the county needs it to protect county residents. 

Alston said that he doesn’t enjoy wearing a mask every time he’s indoor at a public place any more than anyone else, but he added that the county’s medical experts are the people that he’s listening to during the pandemic.

Currently, Alston has the votes on the Guilford County Board of Commissioners to leave the mandate in place.  It was approved in late August on a 6-to-3 vote, and, though the matter came up for discussion at the commissioners’ regular meeting last week, there clearly weren’t enough votes to overturn the mandate that requires all citizens who are indoors at public venues to wear a mask at all times to prevent the spread of COVID-19.  The mandate holds in all places such as restaurants, stores, theaters, churches and indoor concert venues.

A few other counties in North Carolina have mask mandates, but Alston said that, in this decision process, he’s not looking at what other counties, cities or states are doing.

“I don’t care what they are doing in other places,” Alston said.  “I’m concerned about here in Guilford County, which is where our responsibility is. I’m listening to our medical experts here.”

He added, “I don’t want to prolong the mandate, but I don’t want the decision to be haphazard either.”

The chairman of the Board of Commissioners said that if people didn’t like the mandate they could do things such as get all their vaccination shots and encourage others to do as well.  That, he said, would help reduce the spread of the virus and take some pressure off local medical facilities.

The mask mandate backlash has been getting stronger in Guilford County for a number of reasons: The coronavirus numbers are coming down; people are becoming more frustrated the longer the mandate goes on; and it’s hard to see an end in sight.  Alston said publicly last week that it could be “May or June,” before conditions were such that the mandate could be lifted.

It’s not uncommon at all now to see a grocery store, a drug store or other venue where some customers are walking around unmasked without comment from either fellow customers or the establishment’s employees.

The three commissioners who voted against the mandate are Republican commissioners Justin Conrad  and Alan Perdue and Democratic Commissioner James Upchurch.  At the board’s Oct. 21 meeting, Conrad blasted the mandate, and both Conrad and Upchurch asked some tough questions regarding the rationale for continuing the masking requirement.