What the governor’s latest executive order really means

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North Carolinians will remain in the “Safer at Home” Phase 2 for three more weeks and many will have to wear masks in public under a new state order from Gov. Roy Cooper.

Here’s what the latest order means:

Face coverings in public

Although health officials didn’t originally advise people to wear masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19, studies now show face coverings can help. Workers in personal care, grooming and tattoo businesses have been required to wear cloth face coverings under Phase 2. They still are, but the rule also applies to “workers in additional business segments” and “all people over the age of 2 in North Carolina” are strongly recommended to wear a face covering.

Some are exempt

Certain people with medical or behavioral health issues, disabilities or other reasons do not have to wear masks in public and the order puts North Carolinians on the honor system to decide if they should be exempt.

This order does not require face coverings for workers, customers or patrons who:

  • Should not wear a face covering due to any medical or behavioral condition or disability (including, but not limited to, any person who has trouble breathing, or is unconscious or incapacitated, or is otherwise unable to put on or remove the face covering without assistance);
  • Is under 11 years of age;
  • Is actively eating or drinking;
  • Is strenuously exercising;
  • Is seeking to communicate with someone who is hearing-impaired in a way that requires the mouth to be visible;
  • Is giving a speech for a broadcast or to an audience;
  • Is working at home or is in a personal vehicle;
  • Is temporarily removing his or her face covering to secure government or medical services or for identification purposes;
  • Would be at risk from wearing a face covering at work, as determined by local, state, or federal regulations or workplace safety guidelines;
  • Has found that his or her face covering is impeding visibility to operate equipment or a vehicle; or
  • Is a child whose parent, guardian, or responsible person has been unable to place the face covering safely on the child’s face. Anyone who declines to wear a face covering for these reasons should not be required to produce documentation or any other proof of a condition.
  • Children under 2 years of age should not wear a face covering.
Businesses have the power to choose

Face coverings are required in many types of businesses, but businesses have the discretion to accommodate people who cannot wear face coverings by serving them at curbside, using home delivery, or using other means to protect against the spread of COVID-19.

Masks for all over the age of 2

All people over the age of 2 in North Carolina should use a face covering to reduce the spread of COVID-19, but some populations may experience increased anxiety and fear of bias and being profiled if wearing face coverings in public spaces, according to the new order. If someone is the target of ethnic or racial intimidation as the result of adhering to the face covering provision or as a result of the pandemic, they are encouraged to report the matter to law enforcement or another government entity.

Face coverings are required inside and outside

People are required to wear face coverings at certain public places, whether inside or outside, unless the person is exempt from the rule, at the following locations:

  • Retail Stores - all workers must wear face coverings when they are or may be within 6 feet of another person and all customers must wear face coverings when they are inside the establishment and may be within 6 feet of another person, unless the customer states that an exception applies.
  • Restaurants - all workers must wear face coverings when they are or may be within 6 feet of another person and all customers must wear face coverings when not at their table, unless the customer states that an exception applies.
  • Personal Care, Grooming and Tattoo Businesses - all workers must wear face coverings when they are or may be within 6 feet of another person and all customers must wear face coverings when they are inside the establishment and may be within 6 feet of another person, unless the customer states that an exception applies. Customers may take off their face coverings if they are receiving a facial treatment, shave, or other services on a part of the head which the face covering covers or by which the face covering is secured.
  • Child Care Facilities, Day Camps and Overnight Camps - all workers, adults, and children 11 years or older must wear face coverings when they are or may be within 6 feet of another person.
  • State Government - State government agencies headed by members of the governor’s cabinet must have their on-site workers wear face coverings when they are or may be within 6 feet of another person. Public-facing operations of state government agencies must follow the requirements for retail stores established in the order. All other state and local government agencies are strongly encouraged to adopt similar policies that require face coverings.
  • Transportation - All workers and riders on public or private transportation regulated by the state, as well as all people in North Carolina airports, bus and train stations or stops, must wear face coverings when they are or may be within 6 feet of another person. This provision does not apply to people traveling alone with household members or friends in their personal vehicles, but does apply to ride-shares, cabs, vans, and shuttles, even if the vehicles are privately owned. Notwithstanding the foregoing, no customer will be removed from or denied entry to public transportation for failure to wear a face covering.
  • Certain High-Density Occupational Settings where social distancing is difficult - Social distancing is inherently difficult where multiple workers are together in manufacturing settings, at construction sites, and in migrant farm, other farm, and agricultural settings. Therefore, in manufacturing, construction and agriculture, all workers must wear face coverings when they are or may be within 6 feet of another person.

  • Meat or Poultry Processing Plants - All workers in any meat or poultry processing plant, packing plant, or slaughterhouse must wear face coverings when they are or may be within 6 feet of another person, and those face coverings must be surgical masks, as long as surgical mask supplies are available.
  • Longterm Care Facilities - All workers, including in skilled nursing facilities, adult care homes, family care homes, mental health group homes, and intermediate care facilities for individuals with intellectual disabilities, must wear face coverings while in the facility, and those face coverings must be surgical masks, as long as surgical mask supplies are available.
  • Other Health Care Settings - Health care facilities other than longterm care facilities must follow the face covering requirements in the CDC Infection Control Guidance for Healthcare Professionals about Coronavirus (COVID-19).
Effective until July 17

Phase 2 was extended under the order until 5 p.m. on July 17.

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