CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Governor Roy Cooper’s new executive order requiring face coverings makes wearing them mandatory in almost any business or retail setting but doesn’t include language that requires them at public places like parks or parties.
During a press briefing Wednesday Governor Roy Cooper said “people must wear face coverings when in public places, indoors or outdoors, where physical distancing of six feet from other people who are not members of the same household or residence are not possible.”
But the language in the executive order does not reiterate that. Instead the executive order says “People are required to wear Face Coverings in the following settings, whether they are inside or outside, unless an exception applies…” before listing ten different industries in which they would be mandatory where social distancing isn’t possible.
This raises new questions about whether face coverings would be mandatory at summer celebrations, such as the 4th of July, where numerous people may be gathered.
Mecklenburg County Commissioner Mark Jerrell originally told WBTV he was concerned that “mass gatherings” wasn’t included in the order but eventually backed the order since it still includes a recommendation from a previous order to wear face coverings when out in public.
Mecklenburg County Commissioners had already approved a face covering requirement during their Tuesday meeting, but an email obtained by WBTV shows that commissioners were backing off that based on a recommendation from County Manager Dena Diorio.
“In light of his face covering requirement I do not believe a local proclamation is necessary. His order is comprehensive and covers the items that would have been in the local proclamation,” Diorio responded.
Commissioner George Dunlap called other commissioners who agreed with the manager’s assessment.
“Everyone who has contacted me agree that we should not move forward with an order, given what the governor has done,” Dunlap wrote.
WBTV repeatedly emailed a spokesperson for Governor Roy Cooper, asking her to point out the specific language in the order that required face masks at all public places but no language from the order was ever provided.
Instead the spokesperson provided a North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services document that said “People must wear face coverings when in public places, indoor or outdoor, where physical distancing of six (6) feet from other people who are not members of the same household or residence is not possible.”
However, enforcement on individual people is not part of plan laid out in the executive order.
According to the order “Law enforcement personnel are not authorized to criminally enforce the Face Covering requirements of this Executive Order against individual workers, customers, or patrons.”
Instead citations would only be issued to businesses that refuse to comply with the new mask requirements.
“Citations under this Section shall be written only to businesses or organizations that fail to enforce the requirement to wear Face Coverings,” the order says.
Commissioner Susan Rodriguez-McDowell says that the semantics of the order aren’t important.
“For folks to try to find those loopholes to where I don’t have to wear a mask that’s not the point,” Rodriguez-McDowell said. “The point is to just wear the damn mask to help our community, to help our economy, to help our children, to help our elders, to help each other.”