NEW HANOVER COUNTY, N.C. (WECT) – Masks will return in New Hanover County as COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are on the rise.
The New Hanover County Health and Human Service Board voted unanimously Tuesday to move forward with a proposed health rule to mandate face coverings in all indoor public places within the county.
A health rule requires 10 days public notice and opportunity for public comment. In the interim, the health and human services board requested that Public Health Director David Howard issue an Order of Abatement that requires all residents and visitors to comply with an indoor mask mandate effective Friday at 5 p.m.
Once the mandate begins, so will the 10-day period when the public can comment on the mandate.
WECT spoke with people following the announcement on Tuesday to get their initial reaction to the new mandate and the opinions were mixed.
The mandate applies to essentially anywhere the public is allowed to gather indoors: offices and workplaces, public transportation and businesses.
The Cheese Board owner Brad Nuznoff said that this is the opposite of what they wanted to see, but supports masking up. He hopes people continue to support local business even with the masks coming back on.
“I think that it’s important that we wear masks right now just to get this under control so we can move back forward and continue with life,” Nuznoff said. “I don’t know if it would per say affect my business other than people maybe not wanting to come out again — staying at home to stay safe. I hope people still come out and do their things — we just need to wear a mask.”
Donna Monroe is visiting the area from out of town. She works in healthcare in Concord, North Carolina and is not entirely on board with mandates. She believes people need to decide for themselves based on their situation.
“I’m kind of on the fence as far as mandating. I think it just depends on the situation,” Monroe said. “It’s hard to put it individualized, but like because I’m in healthcare and because I do what I do and have to be exposed the way I am, personally, my preference is to wear a mask because I don’t want to hurt you and I don’t want to hurt anybody else.”
Derek Sellers will follow the mandate, but feels like the mandate is an encroachment on individuals’ rights.
“That does concern me because if you can mandate that, what other mandates can come down the pipe? So it’s kind of a slippery slope,” Sellers said. “We’re a free country. This country — here, you’re supposed to be allowed to do whatever you want to do, make your own decisions, your own choices as an adult. Live your life like you want to live it.”
Steven Rodriguez said he believes many were under the impression that getting vaccinated meant the masks could come off.
“It’s quite unfortunate because a lot of us got vaccinated due to the reason of like, ‘hey, let’s get the masks off,” he said.
The 10-day public comment period begins at the same time as the mandate on Friday. Those can be submitted through the county’s Health and Human Services website or the county’s website.
On August 30th, the Health and Human Services board will reconvene to review all comments and conduct a public hearing. Then they will make another vote on the rule’s adoption.
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