For more than a month, North Carolinians have been required by executive order to wear a face covering while in public places. And while some businesses have received complaints for not enforcing the requirement, many others are holding their customers and employees accountable.
During a news conference Thursday, Gov. Roy Cooper and Department of Public Safety Secretary Erik Hooks announced they would encourage local law enforcement officers to increase enforcement of the state mask mandate. While both Cooper and Hooks said they did not want to arrest people for non-compliance, Hooks said citations may be issued if officers decide an enforcement action is necessary.
"What we want to take is really a community-oriented policing strategy, where we encourage people in the community, we encourage businesses to voluntarily comply with the law," Hooks said. "But we also want to engage law enforcement so that they can educate people out in the public, people in businesses, and then occassionally, they may have to enforce the law."
In July, the New York Times compiled data from across the country to determine how often people self-reported wearing a mask when in public. Global data and survey firm Dynata asked questions about mask use to obtain 250,000 answers from across the country from July 2 to July 14.
In North Carolina, on average, 60% of people said they always wear masks, and that percentage is higher in the Triangle. In Durham County, 83% of residents said they always wear their mask--the highest in the state. Durham was one of the first counties in Central North Carolina to require residents to wear face coverings when in public spaces.
On the other hand, an average of just 5% of North Carolinians reported never wearing a face covering. Columbus County residents reported rebuking the governor's order the most, with 17% of residents saying they never wear face coverings. However, a much higher percentage of county residents reported always wearing a mask--51%.
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The New York Times also averaged how likely it would be that in five random encounters, every person involved would be masked.
In some Triangle neighborhoods, there's a 75-83% chance that everyone would be masked in those encounters, however, that probability drops outside of the metropolitan areas. In Fayetteville neighborhoods, the likelihood drops to a maximum of 61%.
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Of course, wearing a mask alone is not enough to stop COVID-19, though it plays a major role in slowing the spread. Health experts said staying socially distant and washing hands frequently will also help slow the spread of the virus in our communities.