Usually, these days, when Guilford County Health Director Dr. Iulia Vann speaks to the commissioners, she’s giving a report on COVID-19.

However, at the Guilford County Board of Commissioners Thursday, Jan. 20 meeting, Vann also gave a report on sexually transmitted diseases (STD) in the county.

 She said the recorded number of STD cases had fallen precipitously during the pandemic, but she added that the seemingly positive news was likely illusory.

The health director – who got that job (on an interim basis at first) on practically the same day the pandemic hit Guilford County – told the commissioners at the virtual Jan. 20 meeting that North Carolina and Guilford County had seen “very concerning” increases in STD’s in the six years prior to 2020.  However, starting in 2020, those numbers magically got better.

“There was a dramatic decrease,” she said of the recorded cases, adding quickly that she thinks that was a result of “underreporting” rather than an actual drop in cases. 

Vann said that, once the pandemic began, there was a large drop in medical exams and people were generally being “undertreated” by health professionals. 

That, of course, led to fewer STD cases being recorded in Guilford County and North Carolina.

She also said that, before the pandemic hit, county health workers were aggressively getting out in the community doing outreach on STD education and treatment.

“A lot of those outreach plans did not happen,” Vann said of the time after the pandemic hit,” adding that it was likely “not a true decrease in transmission.”

While there has no doubt been underreporting going on since March of 2020, another contributing factor – one that Vann didn’t mention at the meeting – might be that, with every club, bar, music venue and restaurant shut down for much of 2020, there were no doubt a lot fewer random hookups going on in Guilford County than there were in 2019.