Coronavirus continues to spread in NC. But a growing number of local sheriffs say the governor’s order is unconstitutional.
“I…encourage you to wear a face mask IF you feel comfortable doing so,” Lee County Sheriff Tracey Carter posted on Facebook Thursday. “With that, [neither] me nor my staff will…be citing anyone for not adhering to the face mask mandate.”
On Wednesday, Cooper said face coverings would be required in indoor and outdoor public places where physical distancing of 6 feet was not possible. Cooper’s order goes into effect Friday at 5 p.m.
Sheriffs in rural counties such as Beaufort, Halifax, Duplin, Burke, Craven and Sampson counties have joined the Lee County sheriff in stating their plans to defy the Governor’s mandate.
Coiper’s measure is designed to stem the spread of COVID-19. On Wednesday, the state reported 1,721 additional cases of the virus, marking the second highest single-day rise since the pandemic began.
As hospitalizations rise, Dr. Anthony Fauci has said that North Carolina could see an “insidious increase in community spread, which will be much more difficult to contain as the community spread amplifies itself.”
How the mask order will be enforced has not been fully clarified.
Carter told The Rant that despite his decision, residents were still required to follow businesses’ safety precautions.
“If you’re in a business that has a mask requirement, and you don’t want to wear one, you need to leave,” Carter said. “At that point, it becomes a trespassing issue.”
Meanwhile, Sampson County Sheriff Jimmy Thornton called Cooper’s mandate “unconstitutional and unenforceable.”
“My deputies will NOT enforce an executive order that I feel violates the constitutional liberties of citizens,” Thornton stated.
And Duplin County Sheriff Blake Wallace also questioned the order’s enforceability and constitutionality in a Facebook post.
“The Duplin County Sheriff’s Office will not attempt to enforce this arbitrary order,” Wallace wrote.
“[The] Sheriff’s Office will not be taking enforcement actions against people or businesses for not wearing masks,” Halifax Sheriff Wes Tripp posted on Facebook Wednesday.
Citing personal liberties, Tripp stated his belief that wearing a mask “is a personal decision, not one of a governor in Raleigh.”
Beaufort County Sheriff Ernie Coleman also weighed in on Facebook.
“Common sense should dictate that if you feel any symptoms you should wear a mask for the protection of others or better yet stay home,” Coleman said.
Though not a sheriff, Sanford Mayor Chet Mann also chimed in on the mask rebellion.
“We’re not going to have officers out just looking for people without masks,” Chet Mann said, adding that officers with the Sanford Police Department are being encouraged to use masks themselves.