© 2024 Blue Ridge Public Radio
Blue Ridge Mountains banner background
Your source for information and inspiration in Western North Carolina.
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

NC Sheriffs Say Masking Order Isn’t Enforceable But Encourage Safety During COVID-19

The North Carolina Sheriff's Association says this latest order doesn’t give law enforcement the authority to enforce the mask requirement. But any violations of an executive order is a misdemeanor charge. ";

Sheriffs across North Carolina will not enforce the statewide order on wearing face masks in public.  Here’s why: 


Eddie Caldwell is Executive Vice President for the North Carolina Sheriffs' Association.


“We’ve tried to read it and explain it to the sheriff’s in as clear language as we possibly could,”says Caldwell. 


The association issues guidance for law enforcement and has sent out memos explaining all executive orders from the governor dealing with the coronavirus. Caldwell says this latest order doesn’t give law enforcement the authority to enforce the mask requirement. 


“Our analysis is whether to charge a violation of the executive order - which is a class 2 misdeamor - if the executive order is violated, it’s like any other charges; it’s a matter of discretion for the officer on the scene,” says Caldwell. 


The order is more clear about the rights of business owners to enforce masking on their property, according to Caldwell. 


“Well and that’s not unique to the governor’s face coverings requirements in the executive order,”says Caldwell. “Anyone who is in someone’s business, on someone else’s premises that is asked to leave -  If they don’t leave then they are guilty of trespassing.”


Caldwell says that he hasn’t gotten any questions from sheriffs about the new mask policy, but adds many have said the order is unenforceable because of the exemptions to the policy for medical conditions and other reasons. 


“It’s somewhat unenforceable because of that, as a legal matter. But certainly all of the sheriffs that I have heard talk about it have encouraged their communities to practice appropriate social distancing and - the ones that I’ve seen quoted - encourage people to wear a face covering,” says Caldwell. 


The mask requirement is now a part of Phase 2 reopening in North Carolina, which will remain in effect at least until July 17. 


Lilly Knoepp is Senior Regional Reporter for Blue Ridge Public Radio. She has served as BPR’s first fulltime reporter covering Western North Carolina since 2018. She is from Franklin, NC. She returns to WNC after serving as the assistant editor of Women@Forbes and digital producer of the Forbes podcast network. She holds a master’s degree in international journalism from the City University of New York and earned a double major from UNC-Chapel Hill in religious studies and political science.