Statewide mask mandate starts Friday. Here’s what you need to know, and where to buy a mask

Statewide mask mandate starts Friday. Here’s what you need to know, and where to buy a mask
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Governor Roy Cooper announced a statewide mask mandate on Wednesday afternoon, making it mandatory for North Carolina residents to wear a mask in public. This goes into effect on Friday, June 26. He also pushed back the start of phase three of reopening by three weeks, meaning bars and gyms can’t open until at least July 17.

The reasons are clear, Cooper and state health officials say. The metrics they need to see fall — lab-confirmed cases, trajectory of COVID-related syndromic cases, percentage positive tests, and day over day hospitalizations — are still rising or are elevated.

What the order says: The order requires masks whenever social distancing isn’t possible, both indoors and outdoors. Businesses are required to enforce the mandate for customers; those that don’t could be cited by law enforcement. Customers who ignore the mandate may be charged with trespassing.

“North Carolina is relying on the data and the science to lift restrictions responsibly, and right now our increasing numbers show we need to hit the pause button while we work to stabilize our trends,” Cooper said during the Wednesday afternoon announcement.

The governor called out certain types of businesses in the mandate, requiring both employees and customers wear masks. They include:

  • Retail businesses
  • Restaurants
  • Personal care
  • Child care centers and camps
  • State government agencies under the Governor’s Cabinet
  • Workers and riders of transportation
  • Workers in construction/trades
  • Manufacturing, agriculture, and meat-processing
  • Healthcare and long-term care settings

Cooper’s executive order does have exceptions. People with certain medical conditions, children under 11, and people exercising where social distancing is possible won’t be required to wear face coverings. Anyone who is actively eating or drinking isn’t required to wear one, either. You can read the entire executive order here.

Masks for those in need: On Wednesday, Atrium Health CEO Gene Woods announced that a number of local businesses — Atrium, Lowe’s, Honeywell, Wells Fargo, Red Ventures, Blue Cross Blue Shield NC, and the Carolina Panthers — are donating 1 million masks to North Carolinians who are “most in need.”

Novant has also said it’ll provide masks free of charge for the community. You can find distribution locations on the hospital’s website.

Also on Wednesday, Cooper announced a decision to postpone reopening any additional businesses, keeping gyms and bars closed for at least three more weeks (until July 17).

Why now: The governor’s announcement came one day after Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles asked him to issue a statewide mask requirement, and in the midst of the state’s worsening coronavirus situation. The percentage of positive tests in North Carolina remains elevated, at 10 percent. As of Wednesday, there were 906 people hospitalized because of coronavirus statewide.

With a mask mandate, state and county leaders hope to slow the spread of coronavirus and keep local hospitals from being overwhelmed. Hospital capacity in Mecklenburg County is currently at 80 percent.

“The studies show it can make an impact on our increasing numbers,” Mayor Lyles told the Agenda ahead of the announcement. “If done statewide, it increases participation and is perceived as more enforceable with an executive order.”

Last week, Mecklenburg County Commissioners outlined plans to start distributing $8.1 million in federal funds for coronavirus relief. Of that, $1 million will go toward face coverings for the community, county manager Dena Diorio said in a briefing Friday. “We will determine the best way to distribute those, for those who are unable to get them.”

County commissioners have said they support a mask requirement, but they can’t impose one without the approval of the six towns surrounding Charlotte. At least one of those mayors — Woody Washam of Cornelius — said he doesn’t approve such a mandate.

Phone, wallet, keys, face mask: Many state residents are already wearing masks when they go out, but not enough, state and local officials have said repeatedly. On weekends, lines of people have formed waiting to enter Charlotte Beer Garden, QC Pour House, and other popular spots around town. We drove by on Saturday, and zero masks were visible.

As the recommendation shifts to a requirement on Friday, you may be wondering where to buy face masks locally and how to keep them clean. If so, keep reading.

omj face masks coronavirus

OMJ sells face masks out of its new storefront in South End’s Design Center.

Here’s where to buy a mask if you need one:

It’s best to have at least two reusable cloth masks on hand to ensure you can properly clean them after each use. If you need to stock up, support local.

Charlotte Knights: online, $10

704 Shop: online, $18

Paper Skyscraper: in-store, $5.95-$19.95

OMJin-store and online, $18

Making Statements Boutique: online, $14.99

K|LA Boutique: in-store and online, $8-$10

Girl Tribe: in-store and online, $10

The Good Dogg: online, $17

Pura Vidain-store and online, $12-$30

The Sporting Gent: in-store and online, $18

Abode: in store or through Instagram, $20-$25

Vestique: online, $10

KK Bloom: in-store and online, $12-$14

Devoke: online, $20

Glory Days Apparel: online, $12

Feminist Goods Co.: online, $18

Fashion & Compassion: in-store and online, $12-$14

Julie’s Boutique: in-store and online, $4.99-$9.99

Ivy & Leo: in store and online, $4.99-$9.99

Face Tek by Thorlos: online, $12.99

The Dunstan Group: buy in bulk online, 100 masks for $5 each

MadeByAshleeLauren: online, $10.50-$18.50

Revolution Clothiers & Co.: in store, $20

Devoke: online, $20

Or make your own: You can also make a face mask at home with a few supplies you likely have around the house like a T-shirt and scissors. The U.S. Surgeon General has a 45-second video on making a DIY mask.

Once you have a mask, here’s how to keep it clean:

If you have a cloth mask … It’s best to wash this after every use, either in the sink with warm water and soap or in your washing machine. You can also put in a paper bag and let it sit for two days before using it again.

If you have a medical mask … You don’t have to throw it away after each use, but you do have to let it sit in a paper bag for at least seven days before using it again.


When does the mask mandate go into effect?

Friday, June 26 at 5 p.m.

What kind of mask should I get?

In order to save medical masks for health professionals, fabric masks are preferred. You can buy one from a local shop listed above or make one yourself.

What if I can’t afford a mask?

Try making a mask with common supplies you probably have at home like an old T-shirt and scissors. Here’s a helpful video. Also, Novant Health, Atrium Health, and other local medical providers are giving away masks for free. Novant has free masks available with these local partners: Camino Center, Heal Charlotte/Orchard Trace, Ada Jenkins Center, Grier Heights Community Center, and Movement School. Or check out Atrium’s resource hub for more.

How should my mask fit?

Face coverings should fit snugly but comfortably against your face and cover both the mouth and nose.

When should I wear it?

Under the mask mandate, everyone (with a few exceptions for health reasons and for children under 11) is required to wear a mask in a public. If you fall under one of these exceptions, you do not need to provide documentation. It’s all honor system.

Do I have to wear it when I’m at a restaurant?

Yes and no. A mask is not required when you’re actively eating or drinking, but you should wear one when entering the restaurant, ordering food, paying for your meal, and any other time you’re not eating or drinking.

How is the mask mandate enforced?

Local law enforcement can cite businesses for violating the mandate. If a customer or employee refuses to wear a mask, officers can enforce trespassing laws.

Do I need to wear a mask when I’m taking a walk or running outside?

No. Exercising is one of the exceptions to the mask mandate. But if you’re walking in a crowded area like Uptown or a busy park, you probably should wear one anyway.

Have more questions?

Email us at [email protected].

Join us: This coverage is made possible and free to all (no paywall) with the help of Agenda Members. If you’d like to support more reporting like this, become an Agenda Member.

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