Mecklenburg County outlines COVID-19 restrictions enforcement plan

Updated: Aug. 5, 2020 at 11:15 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Wednesday night, Mecklenburg County staff and CMPD laid out a two-part enforcement plan to ensure local businesses are complying with local and state COVID-19 restrictions. However, there’s still a disconnect between what some commissioners are seeking and what County Manager Dena Diorio is delivering.

The enforcement plan is one part citations and violations and one part education.

CMPD Deputy Chief Jeff Estes says that his agency, MCSO, ALE and ABC law enforcement have created a task force that has visited nearly 300 establishments and issued more than a dozen citations for violations of the alcohol sale curfew or for bars and arcades being open in violation of the Governor Cooper’s executive order.

Estes says they will continue to monitor the most egregious violators.

County Manager Dena Diorio laid out an education campaign focusing on face covering requirements and social distancing guidelines.

Diorio said the county will hire part-time ambassadors and use environmental health inspectors to follow up with businesses that have been reported to law enforcement as not following mask requirements and social distancing suggestions.

“Environmental health inspectors, along with ambassadors, will go out and follow up and talk to businesses where law enforcement has noticed that they’re not in compliance with masks and social distancing because those are not things that law enforcement can enforce,” Diorio said.

However Governor Cooper’s order on mask requirements does allow for citations to be issued against businesses.

“Citations under this section shall be written only to businesses or organizations that fail to enforce the requirement to wear Face Coverings.”

In response to the inconsistency, Diorio responded to WBTV in an email saying ““The Governor’s order places the responsibility for enforcement on businesses. The Board wants us to enforce the mask mandate against individuals, which is not allowed under the Governor’s order.”

Commissioner Susan Rodriguez-McDowell said that not everyone on the board is looking for individual enforcement.

“I don’t think the majority of the Board is looking for CMPD to enforce against individuals – but from what I am hearing, businesses are not enforcing the mask mandate and that is where enforcement is being assigned by the order,” Rodriguez-McDowell wrote in an email.

A majority of the commissioners expressed support for the ambassador program. Commissioner Pat Cotham and Elaine Powell both said that the community is looking for “positive action” around compliance of mask requirements.

Commissioner Trevor Fuller did express frustration that policies, such as the 11 p.m. curfew on alcohol sales, were being put into effect without the full input of the board.

Diorio and Deputy Emergency Management Director Wike Graham said that the the emergency management structure was operating as it was designed and that the local orders only require the signature of the top elected official from each board.

In the case of Mecklenburg County that’s Chairman George Dunlap.

Dunlap defended the actions Diorio has taken so far during the pandemic, saying the county is looking for consistency in restrictions rather than confusion.

“If we keep doing something different contrary to what the Governor says then we’re going to keep having this dysfunction in the community.”

Dunlap said he has signed ordinances on behalf of the board. He said he’s not ‘rubber stamping’ all of the actions the emergency management operations are asking of him.

“In my role as chair I have simply done my job as given to me as the ordinances approved by this board,” Dunlap said.

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