Buncombe officials to start enforcing mask, capacity mandates

MASK UP: Explore Asheville covered the costs of fabricating and installing signage to notify visitors of the state’s June mask mandate. As of July, the messaging was displayed on nine kiosks in all: seven in downtown Asheville, one in Biltmore Village and one in Black Mountain. Photo by Virginia Daffron

Health officials have been saying it for weeks: It’s time to “get behind the mask.” And starting at 5 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 25, the latest executive order from Gov. Roy Cooper to slow the spread of COVID-19 goes into effect, requiring all North Carolina residents over the age of five to wear a face covering any time they are indoors with someone who is not a member of their immediate household.

That stricter requirement means nothing without widespread enforcement, Cooper noted at a Nov. 23 press conference. To that end, Buncombe County Board of Commissioners Chair Brownie Newman and Asheville Mayor Esther Manheimer updated their own executive orders on Nov. 25, outlining local plans to enforce the face covering mandate and commercial capacity limits. 

All businesses, regardless of industry, must post their maximum occupancy and reminders to wear a face covering in a prominent location, explained Fletcher Tove, Buncombe’s emergency preparedness director, at a Nov. 25 press conference. Businesses will not be penalized if a customer refuses to wear a mask, Newman added, but they could be fined if employees fail to do so. 

If a business or individual is found in violation of the executive order, a multiagency task force will first impose a $50 civil penalty or criminal citation, Tove continued. The second time a business is found in violation, it will be shut down immediately for 24 hours. Additional violations will result in longer business closures. 

“The requirements are asking businesses to do things that are fully within their power,” Newman said. “They may not be able to make 100% of people in our society believe in masks, but they can certainly require their employees to wear masks. And they can certainly enforce the number of people that are legally permitted in their place of business.” 

A similar task force — made up of public health officials, Asheville Police Department officers, members of the Buncombe County Sheriff’s Department and city and county fire marshals — was employed in August to enforce COVID-19 safety guidelines at area restaurants. At that time, the team visited 30 establishments but issued no citations

Task force members will both preemptively patrol area businesses and respond to complaints submitted by community members, Tove explained. To report a business in violation of COVID-19 safety guidelines, call 828-419-0095 or email ready@buncombecounty.org.

COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations continue upward momentum

Heading into the Thanksgiving holiday, North Carolina’s COVID-19 metrics continue to climb. On Nov. 25, new COVID-19 cases topped 4,200 for the third time in the past week, the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services reports. Coronavirus-related hospitalizations exceeded 1,800 for the first time that day as well, the third consecutive daily record. 

But health experts warn that heightened viral spread may not be as apparent in forthcoming data. Erin Kissane, co-founder of the volunteer COVID Tracking Project, noted that limited testing over the holiday weekend will likely cause an artificial flattening of case and death numbers immediately after Thanksgiving. In the week following Thanksgiving, numbers are expected to artificially spike as data reporting catches up with the holiday backlog. 

In other news

  • Warren Wilson College finished the fall semester without an on-campus case of COVID-19, school administrators report. The college implemented daily temperature checks and a hybrid academic schedule at the beginning of the academic year. 
  • Asheville City Schools will close all buildings for two weeks following the Thanksgiving holiday, according to a statement by spokesperson Ashley-Michelle Thublin. The move is intended to give all students and families the opportunity to quarantine for 14 days following any Thanksgiving travel. 
  • Buncombe County offices will be closed in observance of Thanksgiving Thursday-Friday, Nov. 26-27. A list of affected services can be found here.
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About Molly Horak
Molly is a recent graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and writer for Mountain Xpress. Her work has appeared in the Citizen-Times, News and Observer and Charlotte Observer. Follow me @molly_horak

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8 thoughts on “Buncombe officials to start enforcing mask, capacity mandates

  1. Stan

    They should start in their own permits office. Not one single employee wearing a mask. Not one.

  2. Enlightened Enigma

    no scientific evidence that masks help at all, but it IS a way for the evil democrackkks like Roy Cooper to CONTROL you! RESIST the mask!

    • James

      Yeah! And stop enforcing drinking and driving! Stop enforcing health inspections at restaurants! Stop enforcing speeding…on sidewalks. Refuse to put a toilet in your home no matter what the law says! Home toilets are just Democrats way to control you! Free-dumb! Free-dumb!

      (RESIST the stupid)

    • bsummers

      no scientific evidence that masks help at all

      If you ignore all the evidence that they do, and all the smart professional health experts telling us that they do, well I guess you’re right.

      In Indonesia, they’re forcing anti-maskers to dig the graves of people who died from coronavirus. I like that. We should come up with something similar, IMO.

      • C-Law

        Barry—

        Remember this that has been memory-holed by the media?

        https://www.cnbc.com/2020/09/16/cdc-director-says-face-masks-may-provide-more-protection-than-coronavirus-vaccine-.html

        “We have clear scientific evidence they work, and they are our best defense,” CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield said. “I might even go so far as to say that this face mask is more guaranteed to protect me against Covid than when I take a Covid vaccine.”

        That was perjury.

        He knew it when he said it, but worse, in July Redfield said this:

        https://www.statnews.com/2020/07/14/if-everyone-wore-mask-covid19-could-be-controlled-cdc-director-urges/

        “Because cloth face coverings can also allow states to more safely ease stay-at-home orders and business closings, Redfield told a JAMA Live webcast Tuesday, “If we could get everybody to wear a mask right now, I really think in the next four, six, eight weeks, we could bring this epidemic under control.”

        Well, we did that in multiple states and locales. Many states did so, or had already done so, statewide including Hawaii, Michigan, Alabama and many more. All passed ordnances or issued executive orders mandating masks.

        Such is the power of argument from authority, one of the many logical fallacies that have defined our nation for the last several decades rather than demanding that Redfield win his debate by the preponderance of evidence with the person arguing for the mandate or other change being forced to overcome the null hypothesis before their solution is considered.

        Over the summer and early fall many people trumpeted the “success” of these states and locales. Our own Governor Cooper did so, cherry-picking his data and cleverly omitting the first month in which cases rose, claiming great success. He was not alone; myriad other Governors and Mayors did so as well.

        After all, it was just four, six or eight weeks, right?

        We didn’t learn a damn thing from the so-called “two weeks to slow the spread” scam, did we? Apparently not because we let them have Round #2 in the summer with masks!

        Well, now it’s been five months, not four, six or eight weeks — and every one of those locales and states has had their claims blow up in their face.

        And not a little either.

        Our state has seen cases rise to multiples over what they were in the summer months two months after the mandate was put into effect. It remains in effect today, and has done exactly nothing.

        No matter where you look you see the same thing. State after state after state put in mandates and their claims of “success” were false.

        Being wrong happens. But Redfield has not retracted or apologized for his wrong statement. He has in fact doubled down on it. Fauci has claimed we have to wear masks all the way to 2022!

        What they “prescribed” was fraud and they damn well knew it as there is forty years of hard scientific evidence of same.

        Cochrane has now added to the pile of conclusive proof with a systematic review of dozens of studies, concluding that not only do ordinary cloth masks not work even N95s when used by trained professionals do not stop viral transmission.

        https://doi.org/10.1002/14651858.CD006207.pub5

        Never mind the recent Dutch study specific to Covid-19 that Annals published with an attempt to weasel-word out of the actual conclusion — masks do not work.

        https://doi.org/10.7326/M20-6817

        What’s worse is that both the Dutch study and Cochrane found that when sub-divided for compliance, that is, when you took the best compliance subsets in both cases the relative risk and confidence intervals both went the wrong way — toward higher, rather than lower, risk. That is worse than the null hypothesis (masks do nothing) in that it strongly implies they do harm.

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