In late August, the Guilford County Board of Commissioners adopted a mandatory mask mandate for Guilford County – but the question now is when that mandate will end. 

This week, Chairman of the Board of Commissioners Skip Alston, who’s the leader of the Democrats on the board who will make the call, said the rule will be in effect as long as it takes.

Guilford County’s mandate makes it illegal to go maskless indoors in public places such as stores, restaurants and theaters, with some very limited exceptions.  Alston said this week that he and other county officials are keeping a close watch on the pandemic, and he added that, though the current mandate is officially set to run until early January of next year, the board will assess the situation at that time and, if needed, take action to extend the mandate.

“It depends on the situation at hand,” Alston said. “If the infection rate is high, we will probably continue on.”

“We need to get the vaccinations to go up,” Alston added.  “That’s when people don’t spread it.”

The mandate has a Saturday, Jan. 8 expiration date, but the motion adopted in August gives some criteria that could lead to an earlier reevaluation of the rule by the board.  Unfortunately, the county isn’t close to meeting those guidelines.

The Guilford County Board of Commissioners is the Board of Health in Guilford County.  The commissioners took on that responsibility about seven years ago when they voted the former separate health board out of existence.

The mask mandate approved by the commissioners on a 6-to-3 vote became effective at the time of adoption and will remain in effect “until the earlier of: (1) expiration or termination of the Proclamation of a Local Emergency, (2) January 8, 2022 at 5:00 p.m., or (3) modification or revocation by the Guilford County Board of Health.”

The motion that established the mandate also stated, “Further, it is also the Board’s intention to reevaluate this Rule as circumstances change, including if and when the County’s vaccination rate reaches 70% or its positivity rate is at or below 5% for 3 consecutive weeks.”

The pace of vaccinations is slow right now and only 58 percent of county residents have been fully vaccinated.  The positivity rate in Guilford County has been bouncing around between 7 percent and 16 percent since the mask mandate was adopted.