Statewide mask mandate goes into effect Friday

AVOIDING CITATIONS: When North Carolina's mask mandate goes into effect, face coverings will be required in all indoor and outdoor settings where physical distancing is not possible. If the mandate is not enforced, businesses can receive a citation. Photo by Molly Horak

Starting Friday, wearing a mask won’t be just a health recommendation or a fashion statement — it’s the law. A new statewide face covering mandate will go into effect on Friday, June 26, at 5 p.m., a month after Buncombe County began requiring face coverings in all public indoor facilities. 

Under the new executive order, people are required to wear a face covering in all indoor or outdoor public spaces when physical distancing is not possible. Exceptions include individuals with a medical or behavioral condition; while someone is actively eating, drinking or strenuously exercising; and children under the age of 11. 

If a customer is not wearing a mask at a business location, the business can call law enforcement, which may charge the customer with trespassing, explained Fletcher Tove, the county’s emergency preparedness director, during a June 25 press conference. Businesses not enforcing the mandate risk a citation, he said, though he has not yet discussed enforcement with the Asheville Police Department or the Buncombe County Sheriff’s Office. 

Individuals won’t be required to provide proof of an exception. However, claiming a mask exception does not mean a business must offer normal service to the customer, Tove explained. 

“A business owner or store can make a reasonable accommodation for an exception,” he said. “The business can decide how to deliver the service, so they may ask for the customer to wait outside for curbside service, they may have them take a different route through the store or have them stand in a small restricted section of the store and operate that way.”

County officials are considering additional public awareness efforts, including billboards, public service announcements and more signage with new language to clarify that the requirement is now a statewide mandate. 

“The science and data is showing that this is the No. 1 way that we can stop the spread of this infection and take control of this pandemic — it’s more important than testing, honestly,” said Dr. Jennifer Mullendore, Buncombe’s interim health director. “If we want to get through this faster and safer, it’s really important for all of us to take part in this really simple action.”

Buncombe hotels now in compliance with state guidelines 

The Buncombe County Board of Commissioners has lifted the county requirement to limit hotel and short-term lodging occupancy. Previously, lodging establishments with 10 or more units were limited to 50% occupancy, and staff were required to wait 24 hours after a room became vacant to clean the space. 

“The lodging industry is self-regulated by the market as far as capacity,” explained Tove. “We think that if we get rid of the restrictions, there’s still going to be a lower percentage than they normally would have.” 

Tove said county staff worked with Explore Asheville to analyze data sets and assess the current capacity of the lodging industry. The results of that analysis support moving into full alignment with state guidelines, he said, in part because operating under different rules than other areas of the state didn’t produce the intended effect of limiting visitation. 

“We know people are just coming to neighboring counties and still coming to Asheville through those venues,” Tove said. “But we looked at the data, and the data supported removing those restrictions.” 

In other news

  • Buncombe County and Western North Carolina Community Health Services announced three community-based COVID-19 testing sites that will operate for the next 10 weeks. Testing will be conducted at the Ingles Markets parking lot at 2217 US Highway 70 in Swannanoa every Tuesday, beginning June 30, with early testing hours for long-term care and congregate living staff 9:30-10:30 a.m. and testing for the general public 10:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m.; the Buncombe County Sports Park at 58 Apac Drive every Thursday, beginning July 2, with early testing hours for long-term care and congregate living staff 9:30-10:30 a.m. and testing for the general public 10:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m.; and A-B Tech’s Allied Health parking lot every Sunday, beginning July 5, 1:30-5:30 p.m. Language translation services will be available at all locations. 
  • A seventh COVID-19 outbreak has been reported at a Buncombe County long-term care facility, Mullendore said at the June 25 press conference. The name of the facility will be released by the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services on Friday, June 26, by 4 p.m. 
  • Ingles Markets announced a second bonus payment of $300 for all full-time employees and $150 for part-time employees who were hired on or before April 24, 2020. The payment will be made at the end of July. 

Thanks for reading through to the end…

We share your inclination to get the whole story. For the past 25 years, Xpress has been committed to in-depth, balanced reporting about the greater Asheville area. We want everyone to have access to our stories. That’s a big part of why we've never charged for the paper or put up a paywall.

We’re pretty sure that you know journalism faces big challenges these days. Advertising no longer pays the whole cost. Media outlets around the country are asking their readers to chip in. Xpress needs help, too. We hope you’ll consider signing up to be a member of Xpress. For as little as $5 a month — the cost of a craft beer or kombucha — you can help keep local journalism strong. It only takes a moment.

About Molly Horak
Molly Horak served as a reporter at Mountain Xpress. Follow me @molly_horak

Before you comment

The comments section is here to provide a platform for civil dialogue on the issues we face together as a local community. Xpress is committed to offering this platform for all voices, but when the tone of the discussion gets nasty or strays off topic, we believe many people choose not to participate. Xpress editors are determined to moderate comments to ensure a constructive interchange is maintained. All comments judged not to be in keeping with the spirit of civil discourse will be removed and repeat violators will be banned. See here for our terms of service. Thank you for being part of this effort to promote respectful discussion.

14 thoughts on “Statewide mask mandate goes into effect Friday

  1. C-Law

    The virus is too small to be filtered by a paper, let alone cloth, face mask. It’s the equivalent of stopping mosquitoes with a chain link fence. At best it’s virtue signaling, otherwise it’s blind obedience to unscientific orders from some ******* two-bit politician. Something I would expect the “it’s settled science” crowd to examine.

    Wearing a mask serves no damned purpose beyond posturing. Pathetic.

    • bsummers

      Wow, so glad you’re here to edumacate us about how the pointy-headed “scientists” are all wrong. So all those “doctors” and “nurses” all these years, wearing those pointless “masks” in the “hospitals”, they are all wrong, too. I guess that they are all “in on it”, this plan to make people bow down to authority by scaring them with “germs”, etc. Huh. Good to know…

      • bsummers

        All kidding aside, most people acknowledge that there are limits on free speech. “No yelling ‘fire’ in a crowded movie theater” is the most common example.

        I would argue that saying “Don’t wear masks” in the middle of a pandemic is going to get somebody in real trouble someday, and it should.

      • bsummers

        “So if you care about your fellow human beings…”

        You may be barking up the wrong tree with these folks, pard’.

      • C-Law

        Presume the following, all of which are facts:

        1. CDC says we have 10x as many people who have had Coronavirus as were tested (e.g. for every symptomatic tested we have 10 who never were and are either asymptomatic or think it’s something else — they sneeze, etc) By the way, they really do say this — that’s not conjecture on my part although I’ve been pointing out that by the math this was nearly certain to be the case since March.

        2. We know there is material cross-immunity. We knew this in February (Diamond Princess) The exact percentage of such cross-immunity was not known (and still isn’t) but reasonable estimates were around 50% initially, and have remained there as more data has been developed. Specifically, there is no evidence that material community spread is maintainable once 20% of any given population has had it. This has held up on a worldwide basis.

        3. NY has recorded 390,000 positives. Multiply by 10, that’s 3.9 million people. This is almost-exactly 20% of the population.

        4. If 50%, more or less, have cross-immunity the remaining susceptible population is approximately 30%.


        This is why you can loot, burn and riot in NY, with zero social distancing, and nothing happens. There should have been tens of thousands of primary infections from that event and over 100,000 secondary infections before the primary infected persons got sick enough to seek treatment in NY. The facts are that this didn’t happen.

        Incidentally 64% of NY State’s population is in the NYC Metro; it’s a monstrous percentage.

        Illinois? 140,000 cases. 1.4 million infected, or ~11% of the population. 50% is immune. That’s 61%, or within spitting distance of 66%, which is why they rioted, looted and burned, all with no social distancing, and nothing material happened. Like NY, 9.5 million of Illinois’ people are in one place — Metro Chicago, which is a monstrous 75% of the entire state’s residents.

        Massachusetts? 107,000 positive tests, so 1.07 million actual cases out of a population of 6.89 million, or 15.5%. Add 50% for innate and you’re right at the magic 66%, aren’t you? Did Massachusetts have “no BLM” protests? Of course they did and of course there is a nice concentration of people in cities like Boston, but what happened? Nothing material. Gee, I wonder why not…..

        Maryland? Same deal, 11% prevalence. That’s 61%, or damn close to 66%. Did they have a spike? Yes; a small one. Gee, I wonder why?

        Michigan? They’ve also seen a very large increase in daily positive rates (nearly double!) and have an under 10% presumed positive incidence. 68,989 positives, 10x presumed, so 690,000 out of a population of 9.9 million or ~7%. They’re actually at ~57% so again, they can have (and have had) a decent but not exponential spike.

        Now look at Florida. 114,000 positive tests, so 1.14 million actually infected. Florida has 21.5 million residents, so ~5.3%. Cross-immunity is still 50%, so now it’s 55%, roughly. You cannot get an exponential detonation since 66% is only 10% away, but you can get significant community transmission — and did. Again, it’s centered where the population is; Florida has four materially-large metro areas — Tampa, Orlando, Jacksonville and the Miami/Ft. Lauderdale cluster. Incidentally Governor DeSATAN has flat-out lied; he closed bars in response to the spike, blaming the lack of masks and social distancing in them. He knows he’s full of crap because the place where the spike count is largest, Dade County, never did reopen its bars.

        Arizona’s spike was mostly Maricopa county (Phoenix.) Arizona has had 63,000 positives, so 630,000. Arizona has 7.2 million residents, so again we run the math (~8.75% positive current or historical) and find a decent community spike can happen too (and did) but an exponential detonation cannot.

        Texas? 131,917 cases reported, so 10x that is 1,319,170 infected out of 29 million population, or 4.55%. Texas, like every other state, concentrates its population into metro areas; Dallas/Ft. Worth and Austin, specifically. Innate immunity at 50% + 4.55 = 54.55%, below the herd level, so again a decent-sized community spike can and did happen. Where did it happen and what did we see in Houston and Austin over the last month? But again, an exponential detonation cannot happen.

        Tennessee is the same story. 38,000 cases, so 380,000 presumed out of 6.82 million; 5.57%, so herd is currently at ~56%. Again, you can (and the state has) had a decent community spike. Again, the really big numbers are in the population centers; Nashville and Memphis. Again, an exponential detonation cannot happen but there are so-called “experts” claiming that Tennessee has “blown it”. That’s a ******ned lie, the people making such statements know it, and they need to be ejected from all public-policy roles — by any means necessary.

        Wait, you say… what? Exponential detonation cannot happen? Why not?

        Because it never could anywhere in the United States and in fact it never did happen.

        It also never did anywhere else in the world.

        Look at the curves; you will find that the doomsday scenario never happened anywhere, whether lockdowns were taken or not.

        That’s because with the cross-immunity already present in the population of the world it couldn’t; once you get to about half of suppression the transmission rate is dampened enough that the pattern cannot happen.

        The CDC and everyone else assumed originally in all their models, and the IHME and others still do, that it can happen because they presumed that everyone was and is today susceptible. So Florida has only seen 0.5% penetration, New York 2%, etc.

        That was bull**** right up front and both Fauci and Birx admitted it when they owned the 10:1 ratio on stage today. The so-called experts all now admit they were wrong yet people still cling to the lie.

        The fact of the matter is that only one thing has removed the risk of material spikes: Herd immunity. And it is the states that locked down hardest and first that have gotten there. Illinois, New York, Massachusetts, etc.

        Now the “experts” are shifting to “well, you might infect someone who’s especially at risk.”

        Well, the answer to that is easy: That person should take extra precautions.

        My nephew Bryan died of leukemia a number of years ago. He had two runs at it; the first time we all thought he beat it. We were wrong; it came back and killed him. When he was undergoing chemo everyone had to be extremely careful because his immune system was trashed; a common cold could kill him. That wasn’t everyone else’s responsibility, however; we could have never considered demanding that everyone within 6′ of us wear a mask and that he could go out to dinner and insist on that for everyone in the building.

        Yet if one of his family members went out and brought a cold or flu home he was very likely to die.

        Nonetheless my family did not, nor do we ever, demand that everyone else mitigate said risk under that circumstance. It’s unreasonable, it’s unsupportable under the law and it’s dead flat wrong as a matter of public policy.

        We now know there was never a risk of an exponential, 2+ million dead situation occurring in the United States, never mind that if that had been right we couldn’t have stopped it anyway. The CDC itself now admits this. Birx and Fauci admitted it on CSPAN-2 this afternoon.

        If you only catch via testing one in ten infections it is literally impossible to test and trace your way to suppression! That’s obvious and therefore any such attempt is STUPID. Further if the highest community infection rate numbers are where the most-stringent orders were issued then THAT obviously doesn’t work either.

        Both of these are indisputable facts.

        The time for bull**** is over folks. Yes, people are going to get this bug. Yes, immunity will probably wane and when it does you can get it again, just like the flu. Yes, if you’re at particular risk take special precautions for yourself.

        But for everyone else?


        It has now been admitted in public, by the very “experts” claiming to be the ones making the “rules”, that they were wrong from the outset about the susceptibility and thus the potential range of outcomes.

        In addition Birx admitted that the severe cases are in fact being successfully handled by protocols that THE VERY NIH FAUCI HEADS claims should not be used as of last night. I’m sure someone’s hastily changing that after she clowned them on live TV.

        I’ve been saying all of this since the start — and now even they’re admitting it on air.

        The game’s over folks and exactly nobody should give quarter, of any sort, to anyone who tries to run any bull**** otherwise.

        • bsummers

          So, I got lost in that torrent of sleuthing. Are you still saying we shouldn’t wear masks?

        • luther blissett

          You could have entirely considered demanding that your family forcefully mitigate the risk to your nephew. My family did in a similar situation, because the short-term sacrifice was outweighed by the long-term reward.

          I mean, you can look at all the large-population countries that shut down harder and faster where top-tier sports are back up and running albeit in empty stadiums (Germany), or the smaller-population countries that shut down hard and everything’s open again (New Zealand), or the very-large countries that stayed open and managed to buck the trend because mask usage was already ubiquitous (Japan). A lot of those countries were following guidance that was devised and circulated by the US when it didn’t have a vainglorious idiot as president.

          And then you can look at the US playing whack-a-mole in states where governors rushed to reopen and manly manly men apparently have a problem with masks and just say this is all STUPID AND IMPOSSIBLE but you’re just saying that as long as it’s other people getting sick it’s not your problem.

          I’m not going to say that this was all preventable: not with the wretched state of health care in the US, the distrust of government, the clumps of anti-vaxx nonsense from left to right, or the revulsion at the fundamental premise of public health that our behavior may help others more than it helps ourselves. But the US has failed, and failed in a distinctly American way:

          Just wear a mask. If it makes you happy, know that it sucks as much for “the libs” as it does for you. But magical thinking in the middle of a pandemic won’t give us the chance to have a Thanksgiving that resembles normality.

      • NFB

        Please, Mr. Williams, don’t let facts get in the way of a Fox rant. Ideology before reality!

      • NFB

        But…but…but..Dear Leader does not wear a mask and his sheeple can never question anything he or their talk radio masters say.

      • bsummers

        Sorry, but apparently the best scientific evidence about masks is just an elaborate Deep State/false flag/fake news/butheremails/butthurtymales/one world/pedophilepizzagate/bluepill/IslamoMaoist/COVIDBurqa/anti-Trump conspiracy, sheeple.

        Whatever response you give proves me right, and you know it.

    • miguell azzoza

      So glad the reparations are here now…the blasted yankee carpet baggers that have taken over Assheville will have to pay too, Great!

  2. Bright

    Just go into restaurants or bars…the virus won’t live in either place.

Leave a Reply

To leave a reply you may Login with your Mountain Xpress account, connect socially or enter your name and e-mail. Your e-mail address will not be published. All fields are required.