Friday, 26 June 2020 19:42

COLUMN: Cooper's mask order has no teeth

Written by
Rate this item
(4 votes)

On Wednesday, June 24, Gov. Roy Cooper issued yet another executive order related to the COVID-19 pandemic, mandating that North Carolinans wear face coverings for at least the next three weeks.

Cooper’s order came after several cities and counties decided to issue similar edicts on their own in their particular jurisdictions.

But just how enforceable is Cooper’s order?

There are 11 exemptions from wearing face coverings. The first is for those who have breathing problems who would be even further compromised if they had to comply.

However, the order states that any one not wearing a face covering who makes that claim does not have to provide any kind of medical proof.

With that being the case, all one has to do is say that they have trouble breathing and no one can question their claim.

Law enforcement officers are prohibited from citing individuals for not wearing a face covering — but they can cite businesses for failing to enforce the governor’s order.

Officers can also cite or arrest individuals for trespassing for entering or failing to leave after being refused entry.

What if everyone entering the establishment claimed they had a breathing problem?

Who’s to stop them?

Several sheriffs in the state, including those in Pitt, Craven and Beaufort counties have publicly said they won’t enforce Cooper’s order.

Moore County Sheriff Ronnie Fields on Friday said the governor’s order was unconstitutional and unenforceable.

But, again, per the order, they don’t really have to, at least against individuals, as Scotland County Sheriff Ralph Kersey pointed out in a follow-up Facebook post.

And as the Pitt County Sheriff pointed out in his letter, most businesses are located within city limits, where enforcement is mostly left up to municipal departments.

So their statements are mostly political theater.

Like any mandate, Cooper’s mask-wearing order contravenes the right to choose.

It shouldn’t be a partisan issue, but an issue of choice.

If one wants to wear a mask in an effort to protect his or her health, good on ‘em.

If one doesn’t, that’s their choice to take a risk and deal with any consequences that may or may not occur.

If a business wants to require masks to protect employees and other patrons, it should be their choice.

Cooper has seemingly deprived North Carolinans of that choice with an unenforceable edict which gains him political points from his fans and stirs up resentment from his detractors.

As we approach Independence Day, make the choice for yourself if you really want to be independent.

William R. Toler, an award-winning journalist, is managing editor of the Richmond Observer.