GUILFORD COUNTY — Despite Gov. Roy Cooper’s relaxation of some COVID-19 restrictions, Guilford County officials warn that residents should not get too close or comfortable.

Spring break and warmer weather should not signal a break from practicing COVID-19 safety protocols, said Dr. Iulia Vann, health director, Guilford County Division of Public Health.

“Some people may have plans to meet up with friends and family and even to travel over the break,” Vann said. “I want to encourage you to avoid large gatherings and to still practice the three Ws.”

Wearing a mask, waiting 6 feet apart for social distance, and washing hands are the three Ws the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention has advised since the start of the ongoing pandemic.

Guilford County Emergency Management Director Don Campbell reiterated Vann’s comments Wednesday during a weekly COVID-19 update.

“We are going on spring break, but it is not time to take a break from the things that we know work: wearing a mask, waiting 6 feet and washing your hands on a regular basis,” Campbell said. “Those are the things that will be able to keep our hospitalization numbers low, our community prevalence low and make sure we can get as close to returning to normal this summer as I know everybody is looking forward to doing.”

Guilford County is not in a good position to follow what smaller counties have started by opening vaccines appointments to all adults, but it will continue to comply with the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services’ guidelines on who is eligible, Vann said.

“We have a very large population compared to other smaller counties that are opening up to more individuals,” Vann said. “We have more people we have to vaccinate in all these different groups compared to other counties. Our demand has not slowed down. We continue to try to meet the demand out there for the four groups that are eligible right now.”

Guilford County Public Health has administered more than 70,000 doses to individuals through the multiple clinics it has been providing, Campbell said.

“Since the end of December, 23.1% of our population has had a first dose of vaccine,” Campbell said. “That’s 124,174 residents. And 64,115 are fully vaccinated, which is ... 11.9%. We’re excited to see the progress we’re making in that program, and continuing to get vaccines out into the community.”

This week, Guilford County released 3,720 appointments online and through its call center at all three of its locations for this weekend. For appointment availability, visit healthyguilford.com.

FEMA also continues to operate its mass vaccination clinic on a daily basis at Four Seasons Town Center in Greensboro.

“They’ve now done just shy of 40,000 initial doses since the first date of operation, and they do have additional appointments available this weekend if you call the state COVID hotline, 1-888-675-4567,” Campbell said. “There are multiple opportunities here in Guilford County to get a vaccine over the next five days or so.”

The county also transferred 1,100 doses to UNCG, which is operating clinics for higher education employees and also for students who have conditions that put them at elevated risk from COVID-19.

Last week anyone between the ages of 16 and 64 with one or more high-risk medical conditions for severe COVID-19 disease became eligible, as did people living in close group settings, those who are incarcerated or who are experiencing homelessness, Vann said.

“We are still on track for opening the rest of Group 4 for vaccination on April 7. This will include other essential workers that were not included in Group 3 and also some of the other congregate living community members, such as our students in universities that have students (living) on campus,” Vann said.

While expressing excitement about the growing number of vaccinations, Vann noted variants to the virus are a worry, as well as reinfections, and cautioned people to protect themselves and others.

“Even if you have been vaccinated it is important to remember that you can still pass on the virus to those who have not been vaccinated and that you should continue to wear a face covering and avoid crowded spaces,” Vann said. “We have made so much progress around lowering transmission rates in our community and getting people vaccinated. We do not want to see another spike like the one we had seen during the past few months.”

cingram@hpenews.com | 336-888-3534 | @HPEcinde

cingram@hpenews.com | 336-888-3534 | @HPEcinde