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See the latest news and updates about COVID-19 and its impact on the Charlotte region, the Carolinas and beyond.

Charlotte Area Business Embracing Holiday Crowds And Mask Mandate

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David Boraks/WFAE
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Employees at Famous Toastery in Davidson say customers are complying with the governor's mask tightening mandate.

Businesses around the Charlotte region are entering the holiday shopping season as North Carolina’s new mask mandate went into effect on Wednesday.

The mandate requires stores that are at least 15,000 square feet to have an employee at the entrance making sure shoppers are wearing masks. Both employees and customers at stores of all sizes must wear masks.

Gov. Roy Cooper issued the new mandate on Monday as North Carolina’s COVID-19 case numbers and hospitalizations were rising. The latest numbers from Wednesday reported the state's highest number of hospitalizations at 1,811 and a 7.3% positivity rate – that’s above the state’s targeted rate of 5%.

Charity Washington opened her boutique clothing store Captivate in Southpark Mall last year right before the holidays. A year ago, she embraced the holiday crowd, she said. This year, she said she’s embracing mask mandates and social distancing measures to keep her customers safe.

“Unfortunately, because of the pandemic, we have to minimize. So we are going to be only allowing a certain amount of customers in store,” Washington said. “Everyone has to wear a mask. Everyone will have hand sanitizer, we’ll be checking temperatures. It’ll just be a totally different flow.”

Businesses that fail to enforce the mask mandate can be fined, and shoppers can be fined for not wearing a mask. Shoppers can also be charged with trespassing if they refuse to wear a mask and refuse to leave a business.

Amy Williams with Moxie Mercantile in Plaza Midwood said her store has not had any problems with people refusing to wear masks and social distance while shopping. To be safe, employees will also be keeping track of the store’s capacity, she said.

“It’s the busiest weekend of the year, so we have more employees, so we have to be mindful of how many employees we have, versus how many people we can have in the shop,” said Williams.

The mask mandate also requires all restaurant workers to wear a mask. Customers must also have a mask on and can only take them off while eating and drinking.

Amber Kolpin, manager at Famous Toastery in downtown Davidson, said so far, they haven't had any problems with the mask requirements.

“I am worried about the new executive order,” said Kolpin. “I don't feel like we should have to police that. But I feel like our guests are very receptive to making sure that we take care of them and they take care of us.”

Gov. Cooper said at a briefing on Monday that the new mandate gives businesses and residents an opportunity to follow safety guidelines ahead of any possible order to shut down parts of the economy.

“We want to give this a little more time to see if we can stem the tide of these numbers,” Cooper said. "I have a belief that the people of North Carolina can pull together and do this — and understand if we don't, we will have to go backward.”