Requiring a mask is “such a challenging enforcement issue,” Dare County Control Group Chairman Bob Woodard said in yesterday’s message.

The Dare County Control Group decided Thursday against requiring people to wear face coverings “when in close contact with others” . . .

. . . but, in a videotaped message yesterday, Chairman Bob Woodard encouraged business owners to “please require” their employees and customers to wear masks and asked service providers who come into people’s homes to do the same.

Why the Control Group thought it had to require people to wear face coverings—or masks, as Mr. Woodard repeatedly referred to them—in all settings in which members of the public encounter each other is not explained in the video.

Virginia Governor Ralph Northam recently ordered all people statewide to wear face coverings or masks when they are in enclosed places open to the public. It is in enclosed public places, such as supermarkets, that the risk of virus transmission by a stranger is greatest. Few of us worry about passing a mask-less stranger in a parking lot.

The Dare County Control Group met Thursday, a now-bearded Mr. Woodard said in yesterday’s You Tube video, for the 42nd time since the COVID-19 outbreak—“almost a month since the last meeting”—for the purpose of  considering a face covering/mask requirement.

Mr. Woodard said he sought “consensus”—not a majority decision—among the group members, who include the six Dare County town mayors, Dare County Sheriff Doug Doughtie, and Dave Hallac, superintendent of the Cape Hatteras National Seashore.

According to Mr. Woodard, who is chairman of the Dare County Board of Commissioners as well as the Dare County Control Group, the Group concluded that masks would be “strongly encouraged, but not mandatory.”

The reason the Group did not act, he said, is because of the “inability to enforce the requirement.”

The Chairman then gave what The Beacon thought were ludicrous reasons to buttress that argument, saying that law enforcement officers would be unable to distinguish household members from non-household members—we think at the Walmart, they could tell—or know who cannot wear a face covering because of “a medical condition.” (Think about that explanation for a while.)

In what was the worst possible reason offered, the Control Group Chairman said that people who newly arrive on the Outer Banks would be unaware of the mask/covering requirement and innocently violate it.

Last we checked, ignorance of “the law” was not a defense, and anyone who travels during this COVID-19 pandemic and does not ascertain the “rules” of their destination is more than just ignorant.

“Business is booming on the Outer Banks,” Mr. Woodard proclaimed, and clearly the Chairman wants to keep it booming.

“Approximately” 150,000 people are on the Outer Banks “this week alone,” he said, “maybe even 200,000.”

“Vacation rentals are seeing record numbers,” he continued, saying that rental property companies are at close to “maximum occupancy.”

Since May 16, 800,000 visitors have come to the Outer Banks,” he said, and only 10 new COVID-19 cases have been reported.

The Chairman did not report on the number of COVID-19 tests that have been administered, however.

We find it disappointing that the Control Group did not back up those business owners who have imposed face covering requirements on their customers by making the requirement county-wide. The Beacon heard recently about two ugly confrontations between a proprietor and customers who refused to observe her mask requirement and were reluctant to leave.

While Mr. Woodard asked home service providers to show “respect for others and their safety” by wearing face coverings, his Control Group did not require our fellow customers to do the same in all enclosed public places where social distancing cannot be maintained.

The Southern Shores Town Council could implement a face-covering requirement to protect public health and safety in our town, if it chose. Any of the beach towns’ governing boards could take action.

But the Dare County Control Group exists in large part so that there is consistency in action among the towns of Southern Shores, Duck, Kitty Hawk, Kill Devil Hills, Nags Head, and Manteo.

Professing that he “personally” wears “my mask everywhere I go,” Mr. Woodard concluded his six-minute message by saying:

“Thank you for wearing a mask.”

To listen to Chairman Woodard’s message, go to: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bw61n0aARjw

Ann G. Sjoerdsma, 6/13/20


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