North Carolinians are now required to wear face masks when out and about, thanks to Governor Roy Cooper’s latest executive order. The mandate was issued in unison with the delay of entering into phase three of the state’s tiered reopening plan.
“I know North Carolinians are strong, resilient, and care deeply about our communities,” Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Mandy Cohen said in a Wednesday press release. “We pride ourselves on helping our neighbors. The best way we can do that now is by taking the simple action of wearing a face covering that covers your nose and mouth.”
North Carolina’s coronavirus counts have risen steadily since the tiered reopening was introduced on May 20. Fifteen of the last 25 days have had over 1,000 laboratory-confirmed cases, and the number of folks hospitalized has steadily increased to more than 900 as of this week.
The new order extends phase 2 until at least July 17 at 5 p.m. Businesses like salons and tattoo parlors will be permitted to stay open, as well as retailers and restaurants at limited capacity.
But to access these services, you’ll need to have a mask.
Workers and consumers are now required to wear masks in almost any public setting where people could be packed like sardines: long-term care facilities, meat processing plants, or any other activity where staying six feet from others is impossible. State government offices must require masks for on-site workers, but there is no statewide enforcement for local government agencies. You are also required to wear masks in any communal transportation setting, whether it’s an Uber or a city bus.
There are exceptions, but disclosure is based on the honor system. You don’t have to mask up while eating or vigorously exercising, for religious reasons, if you have a medical condition that prevents it, if it threatens workplace safety, or if you’re a child under age 11. There are also exemptions for those communicating with hearing-impaired folks, or if you’re giving a speech.
Individuals won’t be cited for not wearing masks, but businesses whose employees do not follow the mandate will be given a citation. Business owners and managers are also expected to make sure that those who aren’t wearing masks have a proper exemption, which once again seems to fall on the honor system.
Businesses may also “trespass” people who refuse to wear masks, meaning law enforcement would ban them from the property indefinitely.
Orange County Sheriff Charles Blackwood announced that instead of issuing citations, the department will be focused on “educating the public of the importance of wearing face masks when in public.”
In a different part of the state, Sampson County Sheriff Jimmy Thornton says he will not be enforcing the mandate, as he believes it “mandating face coverings by all citizens in public is not only unconstitutional but unenforceable.”
As you may have assumed, ReOpen NC is not happy about the mandate. They have started a campaign to burn masks in retaliation—you can watch the video here, but we advise against giving them the attention. They’ll also be protesting in Raleigh tomorrow afternoon.
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