Around 7K people sign ReOpenNC petition against statewide mask mandate
Posted June 26, 2020 11:24 a.m. EDT
Updated June 26, 2020 1:37 p.m. EDT
Raleigh, N.C. — ReOpenNC, an organization initially formed to protest Gov. Roy Cooper's stay-at-home order, rallied against the state's soon-to-begin mask mandate in downtown Raleigh Friday morning.
The statewide mandate goes into effect at 5 p.m. Face coverings are required for both customers and employees of open businesses, including restaurants, grocery stores, pharmacies, salons and other retail businesses. Exceptions are made to anyone who has a condition that would be exacerbated by the face covering.
Ashley Smith, leader of the group, said she doesn't take the governor or the coronavirus numbers coming out of the state seriously.
"The time has come to reopen the state. People are suffering," Smith said. She said that the economy and small businesses are struggling during the coronavirus, calling the shutdown a "failed social experiment."
Over 6,000 people have signed a ReOpenNC petition against the state's mask mandate, and Smith said signatures are still "pouring in." The group hand-delivered their petition to the office of NC House Speaker Tim Moore, according to Smith.
During the delivery, Smith said the group stopped to sing The Star-Spangled Banner in the halls of the North Carolina General Assembly.
Smith said she believes wearing a mask should be an individual choice, not a mandate by the law. Smith believes people will make good decisions on their own that will benefit the public. She also added that she would not be wearing a mask, due to medical reasons.
The constitution, according to Smith, trumps public safety regulations. "To live is to take risk," she said at the press conference.
Smith is encouraging business owners to put up signs that say masks are required, but have those signs read: "Under the ADA law, we are going to assume if you're not wearing a mask, you have a medical condition that would exempt you from it" to get around enforcing the state's mandate.
In the medical community, however, masks are not up for debate. There is overwhelming evidence to suggest that wearing a face mask can protect oneself and others from the virus. For example, Virginia has seen a steady decline in cases after masks were required in mid-May.
One model from the University of Washington estimates that, by Oct. 1, more than 179,000 people in the U.S. will die because of COVID-19. But, if 95% of Americans wear masks, researchers estimate there could 34,000 fewer deaths.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends wearing a mask in public settings where standing 6 feet apart from people is difficult to maintain, like grocery stores, pharmacies and other areas of community-based transmission.