COVID-19 cases surge as students return home

Guilford College is closed until January for all students. Now that Thanksgiving break is over, classes are back in session and students are ready to finish off their fall classes so that they can relax during this year’s winter break. 

It’s certainly new for all Guilfordians to have to stay at home for finals. As the virus continues to evolve and cause new problems, Gov. Roy Cooper has decided to issue a new set of mask requirements. According to the Raleigh News and Observer, on Nov.. 23, Cooper stated that “the state now has 20 counties considered ‘red’ under the state’s new coronavirus alert system.” The week before, only 10 counties  had been labeled as red.

Guilford students were sent an email titled “COVID-19 Briefing” on Wednesday, Nov. 25 from Guilford Director of Public Safety Jermaine Thomas that covered this alert system.

“The State has established a COVID-19 County Alert System to give individuals, businesses, community organizations, and public officials another tool to understand how their county is faring and to make decisions about the actions to slow the spread of the virus,” Thomas explained.

In the email Thomas provided details on the different color codes and what they mean for North Carolina. A Code Yellow indicates significant community spread, Code Orange indicates substantial community spread and Code Red indicates critical community spread. 

As of Nov. 23, the color codes of each county is as follows: 

Red: Alamance, Alexander, Avery, Bertie, Catawba, Columbus, Davie, Gaston, Guilford, Hoke, Mitchell, Montgomery, Perquimans, Robeson, Surrey, Swain, Vance, Wilkes, Wilson and Yadkin. 

Orange: Ashe, Bladen, Cabarrus, Caldwell, Camden, Caswell, Chatham, Cherokee, Cleveland, Craven, Cumberland, Dare, Davidson, Duplin, Edgecombe, Forsyth, Granville, Greene, Halifax, Iredell, Johnston, Jones, Lee, Lincoln, Madison, McDowell, Moore, Nash, Northampton, Pamlico, Pasquotank, Pender, Pitt, Randolph, Richmond, Rockingham, Rowan, Rutherford, Sampson, Scotland, Stokes and Warrens. 

Yellow: Alleghany, Anson, Beaufort, Brunswick, Buncombe, Burke, Carteret,Chatham, Chowan, Clay, Currituck, Durham, Franklin, Gates, Graham, Harnett, Haywood, Henderson, Hertford, Hyde, Jackson, Lenoir, Macon, Martin, Mecklenburg, New Hanover, Onslow, Orange, Person, Polk, Stanly, Transylvania, Tyrrell, Union, Wake, Washington, Watauga, Wayne and Yancey.

The email went on to state that the new mask mandate being put into effect will mirror that of Guilford’s own mask policies. Even when six feet apart, people will be required to wear masks. This includes indoors and public spaces unless individuals are part of the same household. The email also linked to a helpful video on managing “mask life” and other ways to help mitigate the spread of the virus.

In their mask mandate article, The News and Observer emphasized that these new sets of rules will once again limit occupancy in retail stores and other small businesses. Unfortunately, this may lead these businesses to experience increased financial troubles as fewer customers will be allowed in their shops. 

Greensboro Mayor Nancy Vaughan said that the “penalty for exceeding capacity is a civil fine of $100.” (source?) Any repeated violations could result in closures for several days. Another similarity to Guilford’s mask policy is that people will be required to wear masks in public gyms as well. Students in private schools will also be required to wear masks— previously, this had only been a requirement for students in public schools.

When asked about his thoughts on the new mandate and policies, Thomas was seemingly in full support, and backed up his approval by saying, “The science and data continues to show that the pandemic is getting worse and worse by the day. Every briefing I attend it seems like there is a new record being broken.” 

After expressing his frustration with the new way of life the virus has forced us to live, he continued, “Yes, there is discomfort, but I would rather experience an hour of discomfort than catch the virus and put anybody else at risk of being exposed.”

Similarly, Administrative Assistant for Counseling and Coordinator of Student Health Susan K. Smith was in support of the mandate.

“It’s not that hard, and truly part of the issue for me has been finding the right mask, one that is comfortable and where I don’t get the dreaded ‘glasses fog’,” Smith said. “Within the past week, I have two members of my extended family who have tested positive; they are pretty sick. They were exposed at their workplace, where masks were not required. I also know of a lady in my community who died three weeks after being exposed at her granddaughter’s wedding. These stories are real and they happened to folks I care about.”

Thomas and Smith regularly deal with COVID-19 and hear first-hand about the new records being broken in case outbreaks and deaths across the state. Both of them, as well as Gov. Cooper, are calling out to citizens to follow this mandate and to recognize that this is the best option we have in order to keep everyone safe.