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Statewide mask requirement begins Friday; businesses, customers can be cited if they don't comply

Gov. Roy Cooper's mandatory mask requirement in public will be enforceable for both customers and employees of open businesses, such as restaurants and grocery stores.

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Aaron Thomas
, WRAL reporter & Kasey Cunningham, WRAL reporter
RALEIGH, N.C. — Starting at 5 p.m. on Friday, masks will be required in public across the entire state of North Carolina. This is Gov. Roy Cooper's latest effort to contain the spread of coronavirus in the state.

Cooper said that businesses and customers could be cited if they do not obey the new order. Law enforcement can use trespassing laws to help businesses enforce these rules when customers refuse to obey them.

There is overwhelming evidence to suggest wearing a mask is the best way to protect oneself and others from contracting the virus. 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. Virginia has seen a steady decline in cases after masks were required in mid-May.

The City of Raleigh began requiring masks on June 19, a week before Cooper's announcement. Mayor of Raleigh Mary-Ann Baldwin expressed support for a state-wide mask requirement.

“I support it and hope that having a uniform mandate across the state will emphasize how important face coverings are to keep people healthy," Baldwin said. "The more people who wear a mask means the sooner we can open our economy. My goal is to get to Phase 3. We ask everyone to comply.“

Public officials in each community are responding differently to the new mask mandate. Not all leaders are on board with enforcing and requiring citizens in their community to wear masks.

For example, several local sheriffs say the governor is overreaching with his authority. The Halifax County Sheriff's Office posted on its Facebook page that it would not enforce Cooper's order, and Sampson County Sheriff Jimmy Thornton also posted on Facebook Wednesday night that his office would not be enforcing the mask order in areas of his jurisdiction.

The sheriffs say that wearing a mask should be a personal decision, not an action required by the state.

Mayor of Holly Springs Dick Sears made it clear that he disagreed with the governor’s decision but plans to follow it. Holly Springs did not have a mask requirement before the statewide order.

"I just hope that people will respect the governor's decision," Sears said. "Even though I disagree with it, I respect his decision."

Sears is especially concerned with how to enforce the new mask mandate.

"I don't quite know how we're going to do this, but we're going to work through it," Sears said.

In Fuquay-Varina, Mayor John Byrne said he was already on board with the governor’s decision.

"We're going to do our absolute best to comply," Byrne said. "It is something in the best interest of every North Carolinian."

North Carolina is not the only state that is starting to require face masks recently. Nevada's Governor announced on Wednesday that "for Nevada to stay open, we must make face masks routine." In Washington, Governor Jay Inslee announced that statewide masks would be required on Tuesday.

California has also moved to make face masks mandatory on June 18 in the entire state.


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