Face coverings must be worn in indoor and outdoor public spaces in Dare County in which six-foot social distancing cannot be maintained starting Sunday at 9 a.m., according to an amendment to the county’s emergency declaration for COVID-19 signed today by Dare County Board of Commissioners Chairman Bob Woodard.

Just last Friday, Mr. Woodard announced that the Dare County Control Group, which he also chairs, had met and decided to “strongly encourage” face masks or other face coverings whenever “people are in close contact with others,” but not to make their use mandatory.

The reason the Group did not act, Mr. Woodard said, was because of the “inability to enforce the requirement.” (See The Beacon, 6/13/20.)

Enforcement apparently is no longer an obstacle for the Chairman.

The updated declaration, which covers all areas of Dare County, including the towns of Duck, Southern Shores, Kitty Hawk, Kill Devil Hills, Nags Head, and Manteo, as well as the unincorporated areas on Hatteras Island and the Dare mainland, reportedly came after a discussion held this afternoon by county officials about the current state guidelines that strongly encourage face coverings. [Update: The Chairman clarified later that he met with the county’s mayors.]

(See The Beacon’s story earlier today about the Governor’s press briefing yesterday.)

“Voluntary compliance with face covering recommendations has not been effective within Dare County,” said a 5:41 p.m. emergency alert issued today by the county with news of the requirement, “and local business owners have requested a stronger tool for compliance.”

The face-covering amendment specifically provides that “[W]hile indoors, all customers, employees, and other users of restaurants, grocery and retail stores and all persons in any other indoor or outdoor setting in which people cannot maintain” six-foot physical distancing “shall wear a face covering which covers the nose and the mouth.”

Children who are under the age of 12 are excluded from the order’s reach.

Other exceptions to the requirement include:

“While dining in a restaurant”;

“For reasons related to any individual’s medical condition, behavioral condition, disability or religious beliefs”;

“[While] in private separate offices”;

“[When with] household family members”;

“When complying with directions of law enforcement officers”;

“[While] in settings where it is not practical or feasible to wear face coverings when rendering or obtaining goods or services”; and

“[While] in areas of retail establishments, businesses and restaurants that are not open to the public and recommended distancing is maintained.”

A violation of the face covering order is punishable as a Class 2 misdemeanor, which carries a possible fine of up to $1,000 and imprisonment of up to 60 days.

To read the amendment, see https://www.darenc.com/Home/ShowDocument?id=6653.

“Wearing a face covering or mask in public when unable to social distance is crucial to maintaining the health and safety of the Outer Banks community,” the county’s emergency alert concludes.

But it also cautions people to “[k]eep in mind that there may be justifiable reasons some individuals are not wearing a mask or cloth face-covering in public.

“Please be kind, show compassion and wear your mask to protect those who can’t.”

Bravo, Dare County!

Ann G. Sjoerdsma, 6/19/20


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