Those in Guilford County who wanted to see a mask mandate back in place for every nook and cranny of the county can breathe a sigh of relief.

And if they’re in a public establishment, they’ll have to breathe that sigh through a face-covering because, on Thursday evening, Jan. 13, the Guilford County Board of Commissioners voted to approve another mask mandate to go into effect immediately that applies to everyone in the county when they are indoors at a public place such as a store, restaurant or entertainment venue.

Ten days ago, Chairman of the Guilford County Board of Commissioners Skip Alston used his power as chairman to implement a mask mandate for all unincorporated parts of Guilford County.  However, the vote by the Board of Commissioners on Jan. 13 extended that mandate to include all cities and towns in the county.

The board voted 6 to 3 along straight party lines to reinstate the county-wide mandate that was removed by the Board of Commissioners last November. 

The board held the special virtual meeting Thursday night in order to come together as the Guilford County Board of Public Health to make the decision. At that meeting, Guilford County Health Director Dr. Iulia Vann presented studies showing that masks help prevent the spread of the disease, and representatives of Cone Health made often impassioned pleas for the board to vote the mask mandate back into effect.

“We are stretched thin and, really, we are coming to you for help,” said Cone Health Chief Executive Officer Dr. Mary Jo Cagle, who was very intense at times during her presentation.

Republican Commissioners Justin Conrad and James Upchurch offered contrary evidence regarding the effectiveness of masking – but in the end the majority of commissioners voted to approve a new mandate.

The new Guilford County Board of Health rule became effective immediately upon adoption and will remain in effect “until the earlier of: (1) expiration or termination of the Proclamation of a Local Emergency, (2) February 27, 2022 at 5:00 p.m., or (3) modification or revocation by the Guilford County Board of Health.”

The guidelines adopted with the rule states: “There are several factors influencing the decision to implement a mask mandate. The Board of Health intends to continue to review all of these factors including, the advice of our local health professionals, number of hospitalizations, ICU and ventilator utilization, ER wait times, ambulance unloading times at area hospitals, ambulance call response times, vaccination rate, and positivity rate.  Additionally, the Board of Health intends to have a formal review of these data points on February 3rd and again during each regularly scheduled Board of Commissioner meeting until a comprehensive review of the data suggests that we should lift the mandate.”