By WECT Staff | May 29, 2020 at 11:01 AM EDT – Updated May 29 at 12:52 PM
WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) – Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo has announced that all local restrictions above and beyond the statewide order will be lifted at 5 p.m., Friday, May 29.
“The city is fully aligned with Gov. Cooper’s order but is no longer implementing anything above and beyond the state’s restrictions,” Saffo said in a news conference Friday morning. “Residents and visitors of Wilmington are still expected to follow the CDC guidelines of limited mass gatherings, avid hand washing, and social distancing.”
But Saffo said city officials will continue to monitor COVID-19 levels and make changes to the State of Emergency as needed.
“Now that we are reopening, I have some pretty significant concerns about what I’ve seen out in the public,” Saffo said. “I’ve seen people not wearing masks, I’ve seen social distancing being violated in large crowds. We know there are going to be people who probably have the virus who are asymptomatic and don’t know it. And they’re probably going to pass it on to other people. We just hope that rate of infection, that spike, is not as high as we think it might be.
“But we just don’t know right now. That’s why we have kept the door open to reevaluate this if we see a significant spike.”
Saffo also discussed a recent meeting he had with local gym owners.
“They’re very upset,” Saffo said. “They thought they were going to be allowed to open in the second phase. They were not, along with bar owners and several other businesses. They formulated a plan of action, which I think is reasonable. And they asked me if I would share those actions with the governor and the governor’s office.
“They did something similar in South Carolina where before they allowed the gyms to fully open, they would take reservations or appointments with clients. They would bring in a couple at a time, space the area out, make sure there was proper cleaning. I think it is a reasonable request but it is the governor’s decision ultimately.”
When asked if a mandate could be put in place forcing people to wear masks in Wilmington, Saffo again mentioned the difficulty in enforcing such a mandate.
“I think it is a very difficult thing for us to have to enforce,” Saffo said. ” I think that’s why you see most of the states around the country are not requiring people to wear them.”
But Saffo strongly urges everyone to wear them in public.
“The fact is in 1918 and 1919 when we had (Spanish Flu) that hit our city pretty hard, no one ever talked about whether you’re going to wear a mask or not,” he said. “Everyone was wearing a mask voluntarily. I just can’t understand in today’s time with over 100,000 deaths and with this virus continuing to rage in our country and world, why we wouldn’t take these little practices to protect ourselves.”
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