On Wednesday, Dec. 9, the Guilford County Board of Commissioners adopted a broad new order that will impose fines and other penalties for violations of public health orders regarding mask wearing, business capacity limitations and other state and county public health directives meant to reduce the spread of the coronavirus.

The move was made at a special called meeting of the brand new Guilford County Board of Commissioners that now has a Democratic majority rather than a Republican one.

After a lively discussion, the public health enforcement penalties were approved by the board along party lines on a 6-to-3 vote. Republican Commissioners Alan Perdue, Alan Branson and Justin Conrad voted against the move, while the Democratic commissioners – including brand new commissioners Carly Cooke and James Upchurch – voted to implement the extensive enforcement powers.

At the heart of the lengthy document is this: “All Public Health Orders issued during a declared local public health emergency are hereby adopted as the law of the county and shall apply to both incorporated cities and unincorporated areas of the County.” With certain exceptions, “a violation is subject to a civil penalty of $300 per violation for a first assessed violation, $400 for a second violation, and $500 for each additional violation by the same responsible party.”

The new order also allows the county to take more drastic actions such as shutting down businesses for continued non-compliance.

The order and penalties will remain in effect until the local State of Emergency is lifted or until the Board of Commissioners – which is also the Board of Health in Guilford County – rescinds the rules.

The move was pushed largely by Chairman of the Board of Commissioners Skip Alston, who was elected to that position just two days earlier.