NC Gov. Roy Cooper extended virus precautions across the state this week and sent notice to 36 counties – including Guilford County – that they need to take stronger local action against the spread of COVID-19.
Chairman of the Guilford County Board of Commissioners Jeff Phillips gave his reaction to the governor’s actions and statements in a Thursday, Oct. 22 press release.
For one thing, Phillips didn’t appreciate the call for more punitive measures against local businesses.
“Guilford County has had success in gaining community compliance by taking an educational approach rather than a punitive approach,” the statement reads.
A letter went out on Tuesday, Oct. 20, through the NC Department of Health and Human Services, to the three largest counties and 33 other counties where COVID-19 is at high levels. That letter asked those communities to take stronger actions against COVID-19, such as imposing fines on businesses that don’t enforce the state’s mask requirements and doing other things like lowering the limits on the number of people who can get together in one place and putting stricter limits on bars and other places that sell alcohol.
“Please know that while the County is cognizant of the Governor’s new request of local governments,” Phillips stated, “I am quite perplexed as to the recommendations. As many are aware, at the early onset of the pandemic many local jurisdictions, including Guilford County, chose to take various immediate and temporary actions through the issuances of Local Emergency Declarations and Stay at Home Orders. At that time, we closely watched for further developments as additional information became available; taking into account guidance from our local healthcare providers as well as the CDC [Centers for Disease Prevention and Control] on the federal level.”
The Republican-majority Guilford County Board of Commissioners did go along with a “lockdown” early in the pandemic, but the truth is they were somewhat reluctant to do so and the board was under a good deal of pressure from the City of Greensboro and the State of North Carolina to make the move. Even after voting to implement the suggested changes, some county commissioners openly questioned the need to take what some saw as drastic actions in response to the disease threat.
Phillips stated that those moves early on left citizens more confused than anything.
“During the initial siloed approach of the local States of Emergency,” Phillips stated, “which is typically designed for local disasters such as ice storms or tornadoes, we saw extensive confusion and frustration amongst citizens and across the state due to the many inconsistencies between various jurisdictions within our region along with the significantly negative economic and social impacts that were quickly revealed.”
Phillips pointed out in the statement that Guilford County is “a centralized community” in North Carolina and noted that many residents and visitors travel in and out of the county – as well as through the various towns and cities in it – to conduct business, to shop, to attend school, or do a number of other things.
“A renewed localized approach would, in my view, be detrimental on many levels and would have little, if any, real impact on a community such as ours,” Phillips stated.
He also stated that there’s no “perfect solution” for any public health crisis and added that Guilford County government continues to keep the public informed of the best ways in which the residents and businesses can battle the spread of the coronavirus.
“We have always prioritized informing and educating our citizens since the outset of the pandemic and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future,” Phillips said. “While I would adamantly oppose the state moving to tighter restrictions on our citizens and our businesses, the fact of the matter is that the State currently has the power and tools to do so if the Governor chooses under his current declaration.”