On June 24, 2020, North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper released Executive Order 147, which extends Phase 2 through July 17th at 5:00 p.m. citing an increase in confirmed cases of COVID-19 and hospitalizations due to the virus. The executive order also requires face coverings for those public settings where social distancing is difficult to maintain, whether inside or outside. In addition, certain businesses must now require employees and customers wear face coverings. Such businesses include retailers, restaurants, personal care, child care and camps.
The executive order does include exceptions for wearing face coverings, including those who should not wear face coverings due to any medical or behavioral condition, children under age 11, are actively eating or drinking, strenuously exercising, seeking to communicate with someone who is hearing-impaired, and others. See below for more details on exceptions.
The face covering requirements of the order took effect June 26th at 5:00 p.m. We've compiled a list of resources to help residents understand the order and the need for face coverings, as well as some flyers and graphics that can be printed out and posted in stores and businesses and/or shared on social media.
Why Face Coverings Are Important
Even if someone doesn’t feel sick, they may have the virus and be able to spread it. Wearing a face covering helps to keep the virus from spreading in the air and may protect those wearing it if they are around others who have the virus.
According to research presented by the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) on June 29, 2020:
- Face covering use by the public "could significantly reduce the rate of COVID-19 spread." (Royal Society journal)
- Face coverings "alone significantly reduced the number of infections, that is, by over 78,000 in Italy from April 6 to May 9 and over 66,000 in New York City from April 17 to May 9." (National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America)
- "States mandating use of face masks in public had a greater decline in daily COVID-19 growth rates compared to states that did not." (Health Affairs journal)
“Wearing a face covering is important when coming into close contact with others, because COVID-19 can be transmitted even before symptoms develop,” Chatham County Interim Public Health Director Mike Zelek said on June 24. “Remember, my mask protects you. Your mask protects me. Face coverings are a critical piece in preventing the virus from spreading.”
Exceptions to Face Covering Requirement
There are several exceptions to the face covering requirement under Executive Order 147. The order states that individuals are not mandated to wear face coverings if an individual:
- Has 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.
Additionally, 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.
Resources to Obtain Face Coverings
The Chatham County Public Health Department, Chatham County Emergency Management, and the Chatham Health Alliance, along with many community partners, have given out over 30,000 cloth face coverings, which are available in many grocery stores and tiendas. Residents in need of a cloth face covering may call the Environmental Health COVID outreach number 919-545-8407 to request one.
Among the many community efforts is Masks for Chatham, A Community Drive to Protect Chatham County, which is collecting masks and other personal protective equipment for essential workers on the frontlines of responding to the COVID-19 crisis and face coverings and other supplies for vulnerable populations. The Chatham County Public Health Department’s main office (80 East St., Pittsboro) and clinic (1000 South 10th Ave., Siler City) are both drop-off locations, and more information can be found at chathamnc.org/coronavirus. The effort is being led by the Chatham Health Alliance.
The Chatham County Public Health Department has developed flyers and graphics for printing and social media to help educate the public on how to use face coverings, why they're important and where they must be worn, per Governor Cooper's executive order. To download a PDF of the flyers, click on the appropriate language beside the name of the flyer. To download a JPEG, right click on the image and save the file to the device.
On Friday, June 26, 2020, Nellie Benitez and Anne Lowry of the Chatham County Public Health Department delivered face coverings to businesses across the county in preparation for the North Carolina state government mandate for wearing face coverings in public places where social distancing was difficult to maintain. Read more stories about Chatham County's resiliency at #ChathamTogether.