Local News

Once a foe, Halifax sheriff to start enforcing mask mandate for local businesses

Posted October 19, 2020 3:03 p.m. EDT
Updated October 19, 2020 8:07 p.m. EDT

— Four months after emphatically stating his deputies wouldn't enforce the statewide requirement that people wear masks in public to limit the spread of coronavirus, Halifax County Sheriff Wes Tripp now says he will start citing businesses where workers don't have their faces covered.

Tripp said the enforcement effort comes after businesses failed to comply with warnings issued by county health officials.

"I received a call from the health director," he said, "and he showed me some evidence of going by and verbally warning these business owners [or] managers was not working, so what's the next step is to take enforcement action."

Business owners will be cited if they don’t require employees to wear a mask. Individual workers and customers won't be cited. But customers could face trespass charges if a business owner tells them to put on a mask or leave and they fail to do either.

In June, Tripp posted on social media that his deputies wouldn't enforce Gov. Roy Cooper's mask mandate but would instead try to educate people about the need to cover their faces during the pandemic.

"The wearing of a mask is a personal decision, not one of a governor in Raleigh," the sheriff said at the time.

"A lot has happened since June," Tripp said Monday. "I'm still standing on the point that I will not cite individuals, but now we're to a point where business owners and operators need to be cited for not having their employees properly wear a mask. That employee will not be charged; the business owner [or] manager will be."

Six Halifax County deputies have contracted coronavirus in recent months, he said.

"You can look at social media almost every day, and people are calling it a hoax," he said. "It is not a hoax."