Are we following the three W’s?

By on June 6, 2020

Heeding the three W’s at the Tar Heel Too produce stand. (Kip Tabb)

On OBX, use of face masks varies widely

The Outer Banks has reopened and license plates from New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Virginia are once again common sights on local highways and roads.

It almost seems as if life has returned to normal — except that it has not. This past week there have been four new cases of COVID-19 reported in Dare County, the first positive tests for the virus since May 14.

In these days of the pandemic, the central public health message has become observing the three W’s – Wear a cloth facing covering, Wait 6 feet apart and Wash your hands often.

The impact of those guidelines can be seen traveling in many places on the Outer Banks. Six-foot markers are everywhere, urging customers to adhere to social distancing guidelines. Signs outside retail stores indicate the maximum number of customers allowed in the store at 50% occupancy. Some storefronts display messages requiring customers to wear a face covering.

Of all the issues related to slowing the spread of COVID-19, the wearing of face masks is the most conspicuous. It also appears to be the most polarizing. According to the county website, “Individuals in Dare County are encouraged to wear a mask or cloth face covering if they will be with other people.”

For this story, the reporter visited a number of retail stores from Nags Head to Corolla. While that represents a small and very unscientific sampling, it is fair to say that the use of face masks is inconsistent and varies widely.

In a May 26 video released by the county, Dare County Health and Human Services Director Sheila Davies told about a trip by her family to an ice cream parlor that was postponed after her son saw a long line of people waiting and “not social distancing or wearing face coverings.”

In an email to the Voice, Davies, the county’s top public health official, stated that, “I recognize and am concerned that some people are not practicing the three W’s and are putting themselves and others at risk.”

Asked if her department gets complaints about people or businesses not following public health guidelines, Davies responded that, We have received a number of emails about people not wearing face coverings and a couple about concerns over cleaning/disinfecting practices.”

North Carolina and Dare County recommend the use of face coverings, but do not require them. And if they were required, enforcing something like wearing a face mask is virtually impossible, noted Kill Devil Hills Police Captain John Towler.

“It would be an extraordinarily difficult situation…if people weren’t wearing them,” he said. “What’s a good comparison are fireworks on the Fourth of July,” he said. “There’s a law about fireworks that states people can’t shoot fireworks. But so many people are shooting off fireworks, that it’s very difficult to enforce that. So, the same thing with masks.”

Towler does point out that if a business has a policy that face coverings must be worn and a customer who does not comply is asked to leave and refuses, “it then becomes an enforcement matter.”

A sign of the times at Fresh Market in Nags Head. (Kip Tabb)

At the Fresh Market in Nags Head, the sign by the entrance reads: “You must wear a face covering when shopping in this store.” Inside, employees and shoppers were complying with that rule.

Ed Goninan at the Tar Heel Too produce stand in Kill Devil Hills has his whole family helping this summer. There’s a sign at the front of the stand saying, “Social distancing encouraged at this location,” and customers are greeted by his wife who courteously but firmly indicates that face masks are required.

During two visits to the Kitty Hawk Ace Hardware store, none of the employees were seen wearing a face mask – although a staffer asserted the store is adhering to social distancing recommendations and their policies are consistent with Dare County guidelines.

Inside other businesses visited, however, most, if not all of the employees were wearing face masks.

That was not necessarily the case with shoppers. The difference between the Fresh Market where everyone was wearing a mask, the Publix in Kill Devil Hills where most were seen wearing masks, and the Corolla Harris Teeter, where a substantial portion of shoppers were not wearing masks, was striking.

Asked about customers’ wearing face masks, a cashier at Home Depot in Kitty Hawk commented: “It was a lot better before the visitors came.”

Social distancing on the Outer Banks’ long and wide beaches. (Kip Tabb)

Face masks may be the most visible symbol of slowing the spread of COVID-19, but social distancing is another key component. Especially in a beach resort such as the Outer Banks, there are concerns about people gathering so close together that COVID-19 could be spread. Thus far, infamous scenes of people crowding into beach resorts like Daytona Beach or the pool party at Lake of the Ozarks, have not surfaced here.

Indeed, Kitty Hawk lifeguard Marissa Hemfer said social distancing hasn’t been a major issue at the beach, adding that lifeguards will sometimes ask people to move apart, if appropriate.

“If we do see a large group, we, ask if they are family. If not, we ask them to separate. We haven’t had any problems yet,” she said.

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  • Matt Landrum

    Thank God for Kitty Kawk Ace!!! I will continue to give Ace Hardware business!! The whole “corona virus pandemic” is 100% crap!!! Anyone who still subscribes to this nonsense is nothing more than a sheep being led around by the main steam media! They are following a very scripted agenda! I will not give my business to anyone who demands I wear a mask and conform to their mindless crap-

    Saturday, Jun 6 @ 8:39 pm
  • So What?

    Seriously? Mass rioting in every major city across the United States with NO social distancing without a PEEP from anyone, and we’re wringing our hands over a few customers at a produce stand? Give me a @#$%!^& break!

    Saturday, Jun 6 @ 8:55 pm
  • CheetahOBX

    At Jennette’s Pier… as usual….”loco idiots” being idiots…
    Stores…hit or miss…have had SEVERAL “locos” say stuff to me for WEARING a mask(actually a neck gaiter)……if fact…when I DO out…people are being more stupid than normal…..what a ducked up world this has become…..

    Sunday, Jun 7 @ 9:23 am
  • Linda

    Check the Social Distance at Lillian St……no one waits for folks to share the steps nor the beach

    Sunday, Jun 7 @ 3:46 pm
  • VisitOBX

    Visited Corolla last week. My observation based on license plates and when I shopped in Kitty Hawk and KDH versus Duck/Corolla area was more visitors wear masks than locals. Haven’t seen an article yet about the locals attitude towards masks. Just posts like the few above. These locals need to stop acting like they own the place and start following guidelines, or of course the spread will go up quicker.
    Majority of diagnosed cases In Dare are local residents and It is only going to go up. Less if guidelines are followed.

    Sunday, Jun 7 @ 4:50 pm
  • TooMuch

    Keep up the awesome work, ACE…you have my business! COVID left last week with the murder hornets…anyone realize how the media continues to play the narrative? Smarten up, people!!

    Sunday, Jun 7 @ 4:56 pm
  • readthedare guidlines!!!!

    I wonder if this person actually took the time or even cares to read the Dare county and North Carolina guidance that has been posted and public for a while now, they would not be taking the time to try to “shame” individuals or business’s who are following the guidelines but not the personal and or political agenda of the person writing the story.

    If it is your opinion that you should wear a mask…then wear one. If you do not feel comfortable around people that are not wearing one, then don’t be around them…in this case go shop where they are required and don’t shop where they are not……….I also believe some of the business’s called out in this article offer free curb side pickup so that you do not even have to go inside……….Something the writer amazingly failed to mention…………remember freedom of choice? The “mask wearers” and the “mask less” both get that in Dare County.

    So according to our local government…..both types of places of business are “correct”. And whether you like it or not you should try to respect that………..

    Sunday, Jun 7 @ 9:36 pm
  • Lisa Mayo

    I live in Maryland where face coverings are required in stores, but I’ve traveled down to OBX a couple times since it reopened — and I traveled through Virginia where they’re also requiring face coverings now. If you don’t require it, then you’ll see this uneven participation. When everyone is required to wear it, if feels more “normal” to have it on, and you feel like you’re doing your part to prevent the spread. If you see lots of folks not wearing one (like I have in NC), you feel odd wearing it — like your behavior is out of the norm and you’re being overly paranoid. NC should require it and enforce it. It’s not that big a deal in stores to wear one, but if you let folks get away without one, many of them will skip it because they see other people not wearing one. It’s basic human peer pressure.

    Monday, Jun 8 @ 7:21 am
  • Mike P

    118,000 dead in USA so far
    Put down the cool-aid, cut the cable, wear a mask, PEACE

    Monday, Jun 8 @ 10:14 am
  • Dethrol

    Come on folks, get with it. COVID-19 is so two weeks ago. New crisis now. COVID-19 (and the reaction to it) had a good run although it didn’t quite accomplish the goal of completely collapsing the country. This new one seems to have longer legs…. I don’t give a darn about feeling normal (like a good little sheep). I’d prefer the government, and those who blindly follow along, simply leave me alone. Wear a mask and social distance to your heart’s content. Flattening the curve went out the window when tens of thousands of people in hundreds of cities in the country made the constitutional choice to assemble without regard for COVID-19 or any guidance or restrictions. Societal health benefits realized from isolation for weeks have been erased. Don’t despair, ruined businesses remain ruined and millions of Americans remain in serious trouble. Meanwhile, our dear leaders remain committed to the exploitation and/or creation of crisis after crisis to further encroach on our liberty and destroy the country.

    Monday, Jun 8 @ 10:46 am
  • Mr. Daniel Loomis

    “When everyone is required to wear it, if feels more “normal” to have it on, and you feel like you’re doing your part to prevent the spread.”
    –I could not have come up with a more Maryland statement than this. This flood of people–as you say–“feeling like they’re getting away with it” has not stopped you from traveling extensively to OBX.

    If Marylanders like having their governor send five state police SUVs to sit around and block the entrance to a car wash–as he did–then I don’t know what to tell you. This individual KNOWS how to best prevent my exposure while continuing to live the way I wish.

    Might sound revolutionary, but so be it.

    Monday, Jun 8 @ 12:14 pm
  • OBX is Almost Home

    Amen Dethrol – If you want or need to wear the mask – wear it! If you don’t, then please go about your business as normal. I don’t understand why suddenly people are so worried about what everyone else is doing! Mind your business and move on in your daily lives and enjoy these beautiful towns and beaches!

    Monday, Jun 8 @ 2:27 pm
  • Janet

    As a visitor from PA, I find it so interesting that this article and some of the comments want to blame the lackadaisical attitude about protecting ourselves on visitors. In PA we have been under a mandatory mask order for quite some time – and everyone complied. Period – no questions – no mask – no service. In our particular county that was lifted just a couple days ago, but individual stores were allowed to make their own rules. Most still require masks and every wears them. Period. We are used to it. We do it. Do we like it? No. But we do it.

    Imagine our shock when we travelled to OBC 5/23 for a week. Hardly anyone was wearing masks. It was pretty shocking as one of these “visitors potentially spreading the virus” that so few places required the appropriate precautions. There were exceptions: Food Dudes, good on you guys for requiring them and thank God for your coconut shrimp tacos which are legendary 😎 – but I digress.

    Without a doubt, our family was more at risk of contracting the virus during the one week we spent in the OBX due to the lack of social distancing and mask wearing requirements vs. navigating crowded Walmarts and grocery stores in the “infected northeastern states” you guys are so afraid of.


    Monday, Jun 8 @ 11:44 pm
  • BC

    Sigh. . . . and the numbers continue to rise since opening “the gates”. Don’t wanna wear a mask, don’t go where they are asking you to. Stay away from the businesses that require it, your choice. Pre-order and drive up like so many businesses are offering but stop with your amendment rights crap, you still have a choice here. The virus is still here, many are more susceptible than others. I’ll keep doing what I’ve been doing by not complaining about it. I’m fine with being a little uncomfortable for the sake of my health. Hope ya’ll have a good ole time blaming others for what may happen.

    BTW VisitOBX, I realize some visitors are obvious but how do you tell them apart from locals?

    Tuesday, Jun 9 @ 7:10 am
  • OhioBricker

    I found it pretty easy to tell who the locals were: they were the ones angrily commenting on internet message boards.

    Tuesday, Jun 9 @ 3:22 pm
  • Papa Bear

    I am extremely concerned that no-one has posed the question about the matter in which people are exercising the “three W’s”. Wearing the same “mask”, not rated for microbe retention, for days on end collects various forms of bacteria, molds, insects, and viruses. So given a false sense of security from inhaling a virus, we develop a Petri-dish of potential danger to yourself and others while we use our unwashed hands adjusting, placing, and removing the mask. Remember to question everything your learn. Everything has a motive. Personally, I don’t care what PA, MD, VA, DE, etc. is doing. I care what NC is doing. If you are so concerned about the spread of diseases, than maybe you should not take vacation. Treat this like the sun… the sure way not to burn is to stay home. If you want to go out, than put on lotion… or you could just burn. The world will not cater to you. You must prepare for the world. Wash your hands… you should be anyway. And stay home when you are sick. Keep your distance… you stink.

    Hey… remember the times of the herd bullying of plastic straws??? Wow, has time passed. I see more masks blowing on the ground than cigarette butts.

    Wednesday, Jun 10 @ 12:09 pm
  • Tom

    We will not shop anywhere that requires a mask. Folks will find that locals and tourists alike will not tolerate businesses that require masks.
    Science proves that masks will not prevent anyone from inhaling a virus.

    Friday, Jun 12 @ 7:58 pm