With the new variant of the coronavirus hitting Guilford County and other parts of the country, some county leaders and health officials are discussing the possibility of a new mask mandate for everyone indoors in public places.

However, there are plenty of others – including some county commissioners – who consider such a move completely out of the question.

The Guilford County Board of Commissioners implemented a countywide mask mandate in late summer of last year for those who went into public places including stores, restaurants and entertainment venues. The board removed that restriction in mid-November after the average number of people in the county testing positive for the virus remained under 5 percent for three weeks. 

While that mask mandate was in effect, the commissioners got lots of mail and phone calls from people who were very angry about the rule. Commissioner Justin Conrad, for instance, said at the time that the letters and calls he was getting were almost all in opposition to the restriction.

This week, Commissioner James Upchurch said that he’s completely opposed to another mask mandate.  Upchurch, who voted against the mandate last summer, added that he doesn’t believe a majority of the board will go along with another mandate –  even if positivity rates stay way over that 5 percent mark that county health officials consider so important. 

Chairman of the Board of Commissioners Skip Alston has said many times that masks are an effective weapon against the spread of the virus and also that Guilford County should do everything it can to defeat the virus.  When the county rescinded the rule in November, Alston stated it was possible the mandate might be reinstated if those positivity rates rose.

“There aren’t 5 votes – as of now – to implement a new mask mandate,” Upchurch wrote in an email.  “That’s why Skip hasn’t pushed to issue a new mandate.”

Alston said recently that the board would be meeting with health officials in January to see what steps should be taken to address the new wave of COVID-19.

“Take a look at the places that have mask mandates right now – Mecklenburg, Wake, Durham and Winston-Salem,” Upchurch said. “They all have higher cases per capita than we do in Guilford County.  To issue another mask mandate is the definition of insanity.”