Statewide mask mandate now in effect

Businesses failing to enforce the mask requirement can be cited by local law enforcement.
Published: Jun. 26, 2020 at 1:54 PM EDT|Updated: Jun. 26, 2020 at 7:24 PM EDT
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JACKSONVILLE, N.C. (WITN) - Local businesses in North Carolina are trying to adapt quickly to the statewide mask mandate that went effect at 5 p.m. on Friday.

Businesses not complying could be cited by local law enforcement, but several county sheriff’s in eastern North Carolina have said they won’t be enforcing the order.

Individuals won’t be held criminally accountable for not wearing masks, but businesses are required to turn customers away if they are refusing to wear masks, unless they have underlying health conditions that make them uncomfortable with wearing one.

The mandate has given local business owners across the state a tough decision to make: Turn away business, or risk a citation.

“I’m not happy about having to act like the police and follow what was put out,” said Kettle Diner Manager Dawn Mitchell. “But, I do care about the customers that are concerned about the COVID-19.”

Mitchell said the diner was closed for more than two months during phase one. With money already being tight, the only thing Mitchell said wants to do less than turn business away is to possibly break the law.

“We really do have a hard time with having to turn somebody away because their beliefs are different,” said Mitchell. “But, we have to follow what is said. We have no choice.”

Governor Cooper’s executive order does not allow local law enforcement to issue citations for individuals not wearing a mask. If a customer refuses to leave a business after being denied service, however, they can be charged with trespassing. It’s a burden for businesses, but a relief for customers.

“If they think we have to do it, then we’re going to do it,” said Kettle Diner customer David Gordon. “I’m definitely not going to break the rules or object to it any way. I just don’t personally like it. I just think there are better ways you can go about not getting sick.”

The order is in effect until 5 p.m. on Friday, July 17, but Cooper can extend the order if he feels its necessary.

Read Governor Cooper’s full executive order here.

Copyright 2020 WITN. All rights reserved.

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