The COVID-19 pandemic has cost Guilford County government a fortune.

However, in July, it did at least manage to save the taxpayers thousands of dollars.

That’s because the novel coronavirus crisis nixed the physical annual meeting of the National Association of Counties (NACo) and that meant the whole event was free and online.

Each year, a good number of Guilford County commissioners use taxpayer money to buy tickets and travel to the national conference, which is usually held in a very nice spot such as Hawaii or Las Vegas. There, they are schooled in the best practices for running local governments and in finding cutting-edge ways to address the common problems that counties face.

The event also serves as a time when the county commissioners and county staff who attend can meet in a relaxed setting and discuss effective solutions one on one or in seminars.

The conference, held each summer, was supposed to be held in July in Orlando, Florida this year, but the continuing spread of COVID-19 killed those plans that were made years in advance. Instead, key parts of the conference, including the NACo organizational meetings, were held online in mid-July.

The positive side of that is that counties across the country saved money on admission tickets, travel and hotel rooms.

Guilford County Clerk to the Board Robin Keller, who usually makes the travel arrangements for the commissioners, said there was no cost to the county for the 2020 annual conference.

“It was free to all governments this year,” Keller said.

She added that she was aware that Guilford County Commissioner Kay Cashion had participated, but added that she wasn’t sure about other county officials.

“The invites for virtual sign up were sent to them via email directly,” Keller said.