Wednesday, February 21

Guilford County Commissioners vote to end mask mandate

The move comes after North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper urged school districts and local governments to lift mask mandates Thursday.

GUILFORD COUNTY, NC — The Guilford County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously Thursday night to end the mask mandate effective immediately.

The move comes after North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper urged school districts and local governments to lift mask mandates earlier in the day. Cooper is encouraging school districts to end their mask mandates and hopes districts will work towards voluntary masking by March 7.

“I didn’t want this mandate to last one day longer than necessary and for that reason, I will be supporting the motion to end the mask rule,” Commissioner Carly Cooke said.

It’s what Summerfield resident John Berlin said he and his family have been waiting for. Ahead of the meeting, he worried commissioners would opt to let the mandate expire as scheduled in two weeks.

“I know myself and a lot of others I’ve talked to were hoping it would be gone months ago,” Berlin said. “Continuing to wait, if it’s going to be fine two weeks from now, there’s nothing that’s different right now.”

Health officials said the majority of North Carolinians who are hospitalized with COVID-19 are those who have not been vaccinated.

“This (ending mask mandates in schools) has been a topic of discussion as well as steps we are working to get people vaccinated,” Cooper said. “It is the unvaccinated who are experiencing the vast majority of COVID deaths. We have learned how to protect ourselves and each other from serious illness due to COVID. Now we take a positive step on mask requirements to help us move safely toward a more normal day-to-day life.”

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He said the March 7 recommendation date gives people time to get vaccinated and assess exactly what to do to keep people protected from COVID-19 within their community.

Guilford County Health Director Dr. Iulia Vann gave an update Thursday night during the Guilford County Board of Commissioners meeting about COVID cases in the county. She said the county positivity rate is back down to what we were seeing in December, before the omicron wave.

Dr. Cynthia Snider with Cone Health said the conditions are improving but the hospital continues to see 4 – 7 deaths a day from COVID-19. Michael DeWitt also with Cone Health said Emergency Room visits for COVID-19 symptoms are decreasing but it’s still at similar levels to what they saw during the delta wave. Their estimates believe hospitalizations are likely to keep declining through March.

Chairman Skip Alston said now it’s a matter of personal responsibility.

“I hope that we continue to wear the mask if you feel it helps you,” Alston said.

Guilford County Schools is recommending lifting its mask requirement next month. The Board of Education will vote on it at their meeting next week.

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