North Carolina requires face masks in public amid coronavirus pandemic

Updated: Jun. 26, 2020 at 9:19 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper announced residents are required to wear face masks in public and that the state’s Phase 2 will continue for three more weeks, as coronavirus cases continue to rise at an alarming rate.

People must wear face coverings when in public places, indoors or outdoors, where physical distancing of 6 feet from other people who aren’t in the same household or residence isn’t possible.

The Executive Order is effective at 5 p.m. on Friday, June 26. The full executive order can be found here.

Face coverings will be required for all employees and customers of retail businesses and restaurants as well as workers in manufacturing, construction, meat processing and agriculture settings.

There are exceptions including people with medical conditions and children under 11, people who are at home and people who are walking or otherwise exercising outside when not within six feet of others.

Citations related to this order can be written to businesses or organizations that fail to enforce the requirement to wear face coverings. Operators of businesses and organizations are entitled to rely on their customers or patrons’ statements about whether or not they are exempt from the face covering requirements, and businesses and organizations do not violate this Order if they rely on customer or patron statements.

Law enforcement personnel cannot criminally enforce the face covering requirements of this Order against individual workers, customers, or patrons. However, if a business or organization does not allow entry to a worker, customer, or patron because that person refuses to wear a face covering, and if that worker, customer, or patron enters the premises or refuses to leave the premises, law enforcement personnel may enforce the trespassing laws.

North Carolina will pause and continue the Safer At Home Phase 2 for another three weeks. The state will continue to be in Phase 2 until 5 p.m. on July 17, 2020.

The state reported 1,721 additional COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, marking the second highest single-day rise since the pandemic began. At least 56,174 people have now tested positive for the virus in North Carolina since March 3.

Since May 19, the number of people hospitalized has increased 56%, from being in the 500s to now over 900 in just a little over a month.

Dr. Anthony Fauci recently said that North Carolina could see a “insidious increase in community spread, which will be much more difficult to contain as the community spread amplifies itself.”

People are now required to wear face coverings in public spaces, whether inside or outside, where physical distancing of six feet is not possible. Full guidance and Frequently asked questions can be found below.

This includes but is not limited to:

Retail Businesses:

Retail businesses must have all workers wear face coverings. Retail businesses must also have all customers wear face coverings when they are inside the establishment and may be within six feet of another person, unless the customer comes under an exception identified in the Order. If a customer states that an exception applies, the retailer should try to make an accommodation. The business may choose to provide curbside service, provide home delivery, allow the customer to enter without a face covering, or use some other reasonable measure to deliver goods.


Restaurants must have all workers wear face coverings. Restaurants must also have all customers wear face coverings when not at their table, unless the customer comes under an exception identified in the Order.

Personal Care, Grooming, and Tattoo Businesses:

Personal care, grooming, and tattoo businesses must have workers wear face coverings. These businesses must also have all customers wear face coverings when they are inside the establishment and may be within feet of another person, unless an individual has an exception as outlined in the Order. If a customer states that an exception applies, the business may choose to have the customer wait outside for his or her appointment rather than sitting in a waiting room. Customers may take off their face coverings if they are receiving a facial treatment, shave, or other services on a part of the head which the face covering covers or by which the face covering is secured.

Child Care Facilities:

Child care, day camps, and overnight camps must have workers and all other adults wear face coverings. All children eleven years and older must also wear face coverings on site unless they have an exception. Children under two should not wear a face covering.

State Government Employees:

State government agencies headed by members of the Governor’s Cabinet must have their on-site workers wear face coverings. Other state and local government agencies are strongly encouraged to adopt similar policies.


All workers and riders on public or private vehicles, as well as all people in North Carolina airports, bus and train stations or stops, must wear face coverings. Passengers will not be denied access to public transportation for failure to use face coverings. This provision does not apply to people traveling alone with household members or friends in their personal vehicles, but does apply to ride-shares like Ubers and Lyfts, cabs, vans, and shuttles, even if the vehicles are privately owned.

Manufacturing, Construction Sites, Agricultural Settings:

Social distancing is difficult where multiple workers are together in manufacturing settings, at construction sites, and in migrant farm, other farm, and agricultural settings. This Order specifies that manufacturing, construction, and agriculture businesses or operations must require workers to wear face coverings.

Meat or Poultry Processing Plants:

All workers in any meat or poultry processing plant, packing plant, or slaughterhouse must wear surgical masks, as long as surgical mask supplies are available. If surgical masks are not available, cloth face coverings must be provided.

Long Term Care Facilities:

All workers in long term care (LTC) facilities, including skilled nursing facilities, adult care homes, family care homes, mental health group homes, and intermediate care facilities for individuals with intellectual disabilities, must wear surgical masks while in the facility, as long as surgical mask supplies are available. Health care facilities other than LTC facilities must follow the face covering requirements in the CDC Infection Control Guidance for Healthcare Professionals about Coronavirus.

The NC Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) has released guidance to the general public on the use of face coverings, and will make signage available to businesses. Guidance and signage are available at:

A face covering does not need to be worn by a worker, customer, or patron who meets one of the following exceptions:

  • Should not wear a face covering due to any medical or behavioral condition or disability (including, but not limited to, any person who has trouble breathing, or is unconscious or incapacitated, or is otherwise unable to put on or remove the face covering without assistance);
  • Is under eleven years of age;
  • Is actively eating or drinking;
  • Is strenuously exercising;
  • Is seeking to communicate with someone who is hearing-impaired in a way that requires the mouth to be visible;
  • Is giving a speech for a broadcast or to an audience;
  • Is working at home or is in a personal vehicle;
  • Is temporarily removing his or her face covering to secure government or medical services or for identification purposes;
  • Would be at risk from wearing a face covering at work, as determined by local, state, or federal regulators or workplace safety guidelines;
  • Has found that their face covering is impeding visibility to operate equipment or a vehicle; and/or
  • Is a child whose parent, guardian, or responsible person has been unable to place the face covering safely on the child’s face.
  • No proof or documentation is required if an individual falls into an exception category.

If an individual cannot afford to buy face coverings, a cloth face covering may be sewn by hand or can be improvised from household items such as scarfs, T-shirts, sweatshirts, or towels.

After the mask requirement was announced, the Rockingham County Sheriff’s Office said a number of Concealed Carry Permit holders reached out, asking if they will be arrested for wearing a mask/facial covering while lawfully carrying a concealed handgun in public.

The sheriff’s office issued a statement in response.

“NC Law has added an addendum under NCGS 14-12.11(a)(6) that makes lawful for any person to wear a mask for the purpose of ensuring the physical health or safety of the wearer or others. Concealed Carry Permittees may wear a mask/facial covering for this purpose while continuing to lawfully concealed carry a handgun. Permit holders should continue to identify themselves and present their Concealed Carry Permit and Picture ID to law enforcement during any interaction and remove their mask/facial coverings for the purpose of identification if asked to do so by the law enforcement officer during the interaction,” the statement read.

All other laws/restrictions pertaining to the lawful carrying of concealed handguns remain the same.

The sheriff’s office says they have no intention of arresting or citing any individual who has a concealed carry permit and is legally carrying a firearm while wearing a mask during the COVID-19 crisis.

The North Carolina Health Care Facilities Association provided a statement in support of the statewide mandate to wear face masks.

“Nursing homes care for our state’s most vulnerable citizens, so we support precautions that will better protect our residents from COVID-19. That includes wearing masks. Research shows that the leading indicator of whether COVID-19 impacts a facility is the prevalence of the virus in the surrounding community. “We are eager to begin welcoming visitors back into our nursing homes. But we know that before that can safely happen, we must slow the spread of the virus in our communities. Wearing a mask will help make that possible,” President and CEO Adam Sholar said.

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