Right now, unincorporated Guilford County falls under a mask mandate, while the county’s two largest cities and some other local municipalities do not.

On Thursday, Jan.13, that could change when the Guilford County Board of Commissioners meets in its role as the Gulford County Board of Public Health.  Many people know there’s a mask mandate but have some questions as to exactly what the rules are for unincorporated Guilford County – and what those rules could soon be for everyone in the county.

Here’s the bottom line in a nutshell: “(1) Individuals must wear Face Coverings when indoors in all businesses, establishments, and public places. (2) All businesses, establishments, and public places, whether for profit or not-for-profit, must require that all persons wear Face Coverings when indoors on their premises.”

The ruling put in place by Chairman of the Guilford County Board of Commissioners Skip Alston last week will presumably be very close to, if not identical to, a proposed new county-wide mask mandate that could go into effect for the entire county.

Here are some specifics: “As used in this Rule, businesses, establishments, and public places includes schools, colleges, and universities, both public and private. Further, as to residential facilities, including but not limited to apartments and dormitories, this Rule applies to indoor portions of such facilities that are used by persons not residing within the same dwelling unit, such as common areas.”

It’s also important to note that businesses and other establishments are covered by the rule whether or not they’re open to members of the public.

Ultimately, the county welds the threat of fines for those who don’t comply, but, so far under COVID-19 mask mandates in the county, that’s only happened in a few continuous and egregious cases.

There are some exceptions to the rule. Masks don’t have to be worn in the following cases:

  • When someone shouldn’t wear a face covering due to any medical or behavioral condition or disability. That includes people who have trouble breathing, or who are “unconscious or incapacitated, or is otherwise unable to put on or remove the Face Covering without assistance)”
  • When allowing sight of one’s mouth is necessary – such as when mask removal is needed for “facilitating communication with individuals with a hearing impairment, or to assist in speech therapy and other similar circumstances.”
  • When someone is under five years of age
  • While “actively eating or drinking.” (“Actively” is a key word there.)
  • While giving a speech or performance for a broadcast, or to an audience, when they maintain a distance of at least 20 feet from audience members
  • When someone is Is working at home or is in a personal vehicle
  • Someone can temporarily take down their mask “for identification purposes to secure government or medical services.”
  • When someone would be at risk from wearing a face covering at work – as determined by local, state, or federal regulations or by workplace safety guidelines

(9) When their Face Covering impedes visibility while operating equipment or driving a vehicle

(10) “When a child – whose parent, guardian, or responsible person has been unable to place the Face Covering safely on the child’s face”

(11) Is alone in an enclosed space, such as a room, office or vehicle.  (An enclosed space includes cubicles that reach from the floor to a height of at least 6.5 feet.)

There are some other things to keep in mind as well: “Worship, religious, spiritual gatherings, funeral ceremonies, wedding ceremonies, and other activities constituting the exercise of First Amendment rights are exempt from all requirements of this Rule, notwithstanding any other provision of this Rule.”

The new mandate also states who should not  wear a mask: Children under two years of age.