RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- Starting Friday, the city of Raleigh will require face-coverings in public spaces while social distancing.
In a proclamation issued Wednesday, Mayor Mary-Ann Baldwin amended her state of emergency to include the requirement beginning Friday at 4 p.m.
Additionally, all restaurant, personal care, grooming, tattoo and retail employees and staff members must wear face coverings while working.
While there may not be enforced punishments or fines, Baldwin hopes that the city looks at this as an opportunity for voluntary compliance and opportunities for education.
"The message I want to send is: You are not wearing a face mask for yourself, you're wearing it to protect others," Baldwin said.
Frequently asked questions
When will this requirement take effect?
June 19 at 4 p.m.
Who must wear a mask or face covering?
Except for the exceptions established in the declaration, all persons in the City of Raleigh are required to wear a clean face covering any time they are or will be, in contact with other people who are not household members in public or private spaces where it is not possible to maintain social distance or where recommended social distancing practices are not being followed. These places include, but are not limited to:
- grocery stores
- business locations
- parking lots and sidewalks
- public transit
When is a face covering not required?
- For people whose religious beliefs prevent them from wearing a face covering.
- For those who cannot wear a face covering because of a medical or behavioral condition.
- For children younger than 12 years old.
- For restaurant patrons while they are dining.
- In individual, private offices.
- When complying with directions of law enforcement officers.
- In settings where it is not practical or feasible to wear a face covering, including when obtaining or rendering goods or services, such as when receiving dental care or swimming.
- While with members of a family or the same household
What counts as a face covering?
A face covering is a material that covers the nose and mouth. It can be secured to the head with ties or straps or simply wrapped around the lower face. It can be made of a variety of materials, such as cotton, silk, or linen. A cloth face covering may be factory-made or sewn by hand or can be improvised from household items such as scarfs, T-shirts, sweatshirts, or towels.
Acceptable, reusable face-covering options for the general public include bandanas, neck gaiters, homemade face coverings, scarves, or tightly woven fabric such as cotton t-shirts and some types of towels.
During an afternoon news conference, Baldwin detailed her own experience of seeing people without their masks in public while she was grocery shopping. She noted that some of the people not wearing masks looked to be in their 70s who are identified as being at-risk by the CDC.
The ordinance comes into effect a week after large crowds gathered along Glenwood South as the city loosened outdoor seating restrictions to benefit businesses.
To combat the spread of COVID-19, WakeMed Hospital reached out to the City of Raleigh to aid in distributing 10,000 masks to the 27610 zip code (southeast Raleigh, closer to Knightdale). According to Baldwin, that area is where the city has observed the highest numbers of cases.
WATCH: Mary-Ann Baldwin answers questions about face-covering requirement
In the meantime, several other towns in Wake County told ABC11 they don't have plans to take similar steps.
Officials in Apex, Cary, Fuquay-Varina, Garner, Holly Springs, Wake Forest and Wendell plan to continue to follow Gov. Roy Cooper's lead, which is to encourage, but not mandate, masks be worn.
"We are a very collegial group. And as I said the other night during our meeting, they have different needs than we have, they did not experience Glenwood South last Friday night," Baldwin explained.
Clayton Mayor Jody McLeod added while officials continue to encourage residents to wear masks, they "will most likely require mask(s) inside our (town-owned) facilities," once they re-open next month.
Rolesville Mayor Ron Currie said the Town Board discussed the matter Tuesday night and is closely watching what county leaders and Cooper plan to do. He further noted they "need to get an understanding on how we would enforce the order if we do decide to implement something formal."
Zebulon Mayor Bob Matheny noted he has not yet been able to discuss the issue with the Board of Commissioners.
The issue of enforceability was mentioned by several town leaders. The Durham County District Attorney's Office told ABC11 they have not handled any cases involving a violation of the county's mask requirement. The Durham County Sheriff's Office stressed its focus is on education rather than legal enforcement, adding people have been compliant since the courthouse reopened.
Wake County Board of Commissioners Chairman Greg Ford noted he supports Raleigh's move to require face coverings but added that without the consensus of 15 mayors (12 municipalities plus Angier, Clayton, and Durham, which have territory within county lines), the county would not issue an order.
In a statement to ABC11, Ford expanded on his viewpoint, writing in part:
"Wake's 15 mayors are currently not in agreement in support of a countywide mask mandate. If Wake County were to issue a mask order without the support of all of our mayors, the inconsistent application of that order across the County would likely result in a great deal of unnecessary public confusion and enforcement issues. Wake County will remain engaged with federal, state and local officials - as well as with our towns and cities - to provide the citizens of Wake County with the best guidance possible throughout this public health crisis."
Though there is no clear consensus for requiring masks in Wake County, several new studies have come to a similar conclusion: wearing masks greatly reduces infection rates.
"There's not a vaccine. There's not a treatment. The one tool that we know, that the literature is telling us, the scientific literature is telling us, works is face covering," explained NCDHHS Secretary Mandy Cohen.
A study published in the National Academy of Sciences says face-covering reduced the number of infections in Italy by over 78,000 over a one-month span... and by over 66,000 in about three weeks in New York City. They note that "wearing of facemasks in public corresponds to the most effective means to prevent interhuman transmission...".
As prices of masks have spiked over the past few months due to shortages from the pandemic, some private organizations and towns and cities have organized efforts to give them away. Wednesday, Chapel Hill announced they would disperse free face masks on Wednesdays and Saturdays from 2 - 5 p.m. at Fire Station 1 (403 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.) and Fire Station 3 (1615 E. Franklin St.).