Guilford County government was schizophrenic this week when it came to holding meetings while the county and the world are in the grip of the coronavirus pandemic.

First, the county held a March 19, Thursday night meeting and used some suspect legal authority to keep the press and the public from entering. In light of the virus threat, county officials said they didn’t want people congregating in the commissioners’ second-floor meeting room in the Old Guilford County Court House in downtown Greensboro.

It made perfect sense for county officials to tell reporters and audience members to stay away Thursday night – or, at least, it would have, had the county not, right after that Thursday meeting, called a press conference that would get reporters and anyone else who wanted to come into that second-floor meeting room of the Old Guilford County Court House the next morning.

The hour-long press conference, which was live-streamed on the internet and broadcast on local TV, was extremely informative; but one question that didn’t get asked or answered was the question as to the wisdom of getting everyone together in the same room that one night earlier was off-limits to members of the public and the press for what’s thought to be the first time in Guilford County history.

The press conference was called very quickly – at night on Thursday, March 19 – to be held at 9:30 a.m. the following morning.

One reason for the hastily called affair – which seemed to fly in the face of the current national wisdom of not getting people into a room together – appears to be a tirade that Commissioner Skip Alston launched against Guilford County Manager Marty Lawing and other Guilford County staff at the March 19 commissioners meeting.  

Near the end of that meeting, Alston went on and on, stating emphatically that he was extremely disappointed that county staff had not yet held a press conference regarding the virus. He said Guilford County Schools had held one that effectively informed the public of the school system’s actions and plans, but, Alston said, county staff had dropped the ball in that regard.