Local Politics

Raleigh mask mandate starts Friday afternoon

Posted June 17, 2020 5:21 p.m. EDT
Updated June 18, 2020 1:33 p.m. EDT

— People will be required to wear masks when out in public in Raleigh as of Friday afternoon.

Mayor Mary-Ann Baldwin on Wednesday amended the city's emergency order during the coronavirus pandemic to make face coverings mandatory when social distancing in public is difficult or impossible.

The City Council voted unanimously on Tuesday to authorize Baldwin to take the step, noting that Wake County has the second-highest number of coronavirus infections in North Carolina and that the numbers keep growing.

The requirement takes effect at 4 p.m. Friday, and the mayor said Raleigh is working with WakeMed and Wake County to try to supply masks or other coverings to people who don't have any.

Masks aren't required for children 12 and under or for people who cannot wear them because of medical or religious reasons.

Baldwin said she was irate that crowds of people without masks and ignoring social distancing guidelines were milling about outside restaurants in the Glenwood South area over the weekend.

"That was alarming," she said, adding that she saw numerous people, including elderly people, without masks at her supermarket on Saturday.

"This [requirement] is really meant to make people aware and say, 'Hey folks, we need to do this to protect others,'" she said.

Raleigh police won't be citing anyone for not wearing masks in public, Baldwin said, noting that the city wants to focus on education to get people to comply.

"I think people will follow rules. This is a rule," she said, comparing it to the drop in people watering lawns during a drought more than a decade ago after Raleigh banned it.

Raleigh's requirement is patterned after one Durham County put into effect last month, and Baldwin said people have complied there. Orange County also requires masks in public.

"A lot of people are saying, 'How can I help?' This is how they can help – wearing a mask," she said. "This is how people can all pitch in and ensure that we're safe."

She said she hopes that supermarkets, restaurants and other retailers will help enforce the requirement by informing customers who aren't wearing masks to cover their faces.

Wake County officials said they won't enact a countywide requirement because Raleigh is one of the few municipalities to support the move.

Knightdale spokesman Jonas Silver said Tuesday that officials there are "actively exploring options, including the possibility of making masks mandatory in public spaces."

But spokespeople for almost every other town in Wake County said they aren't interested in requiring people to wear masks to limit the spread of coronavirus.

Holly Springs Mayor Dick Sears said masks are recommended in his town, adding that he's gotten numerous emails asking that he not mandate masks.

"It has to do with what is the situation in your town, and what do you need to do," Sears said. "Broad brushes are being applied to almost everything, and I have a problem with that."

Holly Springs has had 47 coronavirus cases and one death in three months, he said.

"That's not enough for me to push, in my mind, for mandatory [masks]," he said. "I'm not against masks. I wore one today. ... I'm much more a fan of social distancing at 6 feet because I've done some research,. I think, of those two, distancing is much more effective."

Sears also noted that enforcing a mask mandate would be difficult.

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