Raleigh residents will be required to wear face coverings in public starting at 4 p.m. Friday, the city announced Wednesday.

The mandate is an adjustment to the existing State of Emergency order. Residents will be asked to cover their faces in public. If they do not have the ability to buy a face mask, they can use bandanas, t-shirts, towels, or whatever else they have available.

“There are always ways to comply,” Raleigh Mayor Mary-Ann Baldwin told the INDY Wednesday. “The message is that the more people who wear masks, the sooner we can get them off.”

The state reported nearly 47,000 laboratory-confirmed cases of the virus as of Wednesday. About 850 people remain hospitalized with the virus, and 1,168 people have died.

The decision to require face coverings comes at the heels of similar mandates in Durham and Orange counties after the state reported a sharp rise in coronavirus cases and hospitalizations. North Carolina entered into the second phase of reopening its economy last month, lifting the stay-at-home order and allowing restaurants to resume dine-in service at half capacity. 

Baldwin says a driving factor in issuing the requirement was the crowds of unmasked people seen gathering in the city’s Glenwood South nightclub district last weekend. Many did not wear masks or practice social distancing. 

“We needed a reset and needed to send a message to people that we are still in a pandemic and it’s important for them to protect themselves but also protect others,” Baldwin says.

Residents who violate the mandate will not receive citations. Rather, police officers that see people without face coverings will attempt to educate them on the dangers of the virus and ask them to comply. Compliance will be voluntary. 

While officials hoped the state could fully reopen by July, Mayor Mary-Ann Baldwin says that now seems unlikely.

“I don’t see that happening with the current trends,” Baldwin says. 

Read the full mandate here. 

Follow Raleigh News Editor Leigh Tauss on Twitter or send an email to ltauss@indyweek.com

Support independent local journalism. Join the INDY Press Club to help us keep fearless watchdog reporting and essential arts and culture coverage viable in the Triangle.