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FAQ City: Your Questions About NC's Mask Requirement, Answered

Jodie Valade
Face masks are now required in North Carolina when people are in public and social distancing isn't possible.



People in North Carolina are now required to wear face masks in many public places. It’s part of an executive order issued by Gov. Roy Cooper that takes effect at 5 p.m. Friday, June 26. When and where do you have to wear a mask? Can you get a ticket for not wearing one? We answer those questions and others.



Is there a difference between “face mask” and “face covering?”


Officials have been using the broader term “face covering” to include any fabric that covers both your nose and mouth, whether that’s a bandana, scarf, T-shirt or an actual face mask that loops around your ears or ties behind your head.


Where are masks required?


Under the executive order that takes effect Friday at 5 p.m., you have to wear a mask anywhere in public where you will be -- or might be -- within six feet of other people. That includes, among other places: grocery stores, other retail stores, health care facilities, hair salons, tattoo parlors, day care centers, public transportation and meat processing plants. You’re also required to wear a mask in restaurants, but you can take it off to eat or drink.


Read the full executive order here.


Is anyone not required to wear a mask?


There are some exceptions under the executive order. Children under the age of 11 are not required to wear a mask. You also don’t have to wear one if you shouldn’t for medical reasons, like if you have trouble breathing or will struggle to take the mask on and off by yourself.


Do I have to wear a mask to walk around my neighborhood?


No. If you are more than six feet away from other people or “strenuously exercising,” you do not have to wear a mask, according to the executive order.


Why are masks required?


Gov. Roy Cooper said Wednesday his administration has seen a number of studies showing that wearing face masks slows the spread of the coronavirus, which is a respiratory virus. 

“Overwhelming evidence that is growing by the week shows that wearing a face covering can greatly reduce the spread of COVID-19,” Cooper said. 

“Especially from people who have it and don’t know it yet. Face coverings are a simple way to control this virus while protecting ourselves, our families, and the other people around us.”

North Carolina health officials have also said for the past couple of weeks that the state’s coronavirus trends are moving in the “wrong direction.”

The state reported its second-highest number of daily new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday -- the same day the governor announced that North Carolina would “pause” its reopening process and remain in Phase 2 for an additional three weeks.


Do other states require masks?


Yes, states including, among others, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Kentucky and Maryland also require face coverings. 

Can I get a ticket or be arrested for not wearing a mask?


No, you cannot get a ticket for not wearing a mask. Under the executive order, law enforcement is prohibited from issuing citations against individual people who don’t wear face coverings. But they can cite businesses or organizations.

“The responsibility here is on the businesses and the organizations to make sure their employees and their customers wear masks,” Cooper said. 

But under the order, if a business bars a customer or employee from entering because they are not wearing a mask and that person enters the business or refuses to leave, police can cite that person for trespassing.


A Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department spokesman said in an email Friday that “CMPD will continue to work towards voluntary compliance with each member of the community through education and conversations, only resorting to enforcement as a last-measure.”


Iredell County Sheriff Darren Campbell said on Facebook he believes the mask mandate is “not only unconstitutional but unenforceable.” He said his office has “no intention of enforcing the order.” Sampson County Sheriff Jimmy Thornton issued a similar statement on Facebook. Cooper had not responded to these statements as of 3 p.m. Friday. 


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Claire Donnelly is WFAE's health reporter. She previously worked at NPR member station KGOU in Oklahoma and also interned at WBEZ in Chicago and WAMU in Washington, D.C. She holds a master's degree in journalism from Northwestern University and attended college at the University of Virginia, where she majored in Comparative Literature and Spanish. Claire is originally from Richmond, Virginia. Reach her at cdonnelly@wfae.org or on Twitter @donnellyclairee.
Nick de la Canal is a reporter for WFAE covering breaking news, arts and culture, and general assignment stories. He work frequently appears on air and online. Periodically, he tweets: @nickdelacanal