By Mark Jurkowitz | Outer Banks Voice on June 19, 2020
Reversing a previous decision made only days ago, Dare County announced on the evening of Friday, June 19 that it would require the wearing of face coverings to combat the spread of Covid-19 in indoor and outdoor public spaces where social distancing cannot be maintained. The measure becomes effective June 21 and comes against the backdrop of a growing number of cases at both the local and state level.
The statement issued by the county indicated that “voluntary compliance with face covering recommendations has not been effective within Dare County.”
As noted in the statement. the requirement covers all areas of Dare County, including the towns of Duck, Southern Shores, Kitty Hawk, Kill Devil Hills, Nags Head, Manteo and the unincorporated areas of Dare County, including Hatteras Island and the Dare mainland.
“This decision comes following discussion by officials regarding the current state guidelines that strongly encourage face coverings. Voluntary compliance with face covering recommendations has not been effective within Dare County and local business owners have requested a stronger tool for compliance,” the bulletin read.
There are some exceptions to the updated mandate, including for those dining in a restaurant, for reasons related to medical or behavioral conditions, and for children under the age of 12. The complete list of exceptions is available here.
One week earlier, in a video released by the county, Dare County Commissioners Chairman Bob Woodard said that while county officials strongly recommended using face covering, they would not require it, primarily because of the difficulty in enforcing such a measure.
While the incidence of COVID-19 infection reported in Dare County is relatively low, at 44 cases, there has been a recent spike in those infections. The 44th case reported on June 18 was the 12th in a period of six days.
In social media and elsewhere, there has been considerable conversation about the number of people not wearing masks in Dare County businesses, stores and in public. A petition drive was also recently started to lobby the county to mandate social distancing and mask-wearing practices.
Cases of COVID-19 have also spiked at the state level, which has now reported just shy of 50,000 overall cases and is seeing record numbers of hospitalizations. Both Governor Roy Cooper and Health and Human Services Director Mandy Cohen have repeatedly called those trends “concerning” in recent days.
Sometime early next week, Cooper is expected to announce whether the state will move into a new phase of reopening. At the same time, he is expected to reveal plans to further control the spread of the disease.
The governor was non-committal during recent press briefings when asked if he would require the wearing of face coverings. But at the one on June 18, he did say that, “We need more people to wear masks. And we need to figure out the best way to do that…We’ve got to remove the politics from all of this.”