RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Researchers are now saying Gov. Roy Cooper needs to go further and require people to wear face coverings – not just recommend it – as the COVID-19 pandemic continues.
More than a dozen other states have a requirement like this in place.
This week we have heard from state officials that they’re concerned by how many people are not wearing them when they can’t maintain social distancing.
The people calling for a mandate on masks say it could be key to not only reopening but keeping things open.
As stores reopen across North Carolina, state officials say they want to see more people wearing masks.
“In order to be able to get people to come back to your retail establishment, you’re going to have to make sure they are confident in their safety,” said Cooper.
It’s a recommendation the governor and health officials have made, but not required.
Jeremy Howard, a data scientist at the University of San Francisco, signed a letter with more than 100 other experts, including those at Duke and UNC, calling on states to mandate masks.
“There are people that aren’t wearing masks. They’re going to put my family at risk. They’re going to put me at risk. So, if we’re actually going to avoid a second outbreak and keep the economy open, it’s so important that everybody wears a mask,” said Howard.
Fourteen states are requiring masks in public settings such as being in a store, on public transportation, or when social distancing is impossible.
Some communities in the state, including Durham and Surf City, have requirements for masks.
As the pandemic began, the U.S. surgeon general and others did not recommend wearing masks, but now are telling people it could keep them from unknowingly spreading COVID-19.
“That initial guidance was terribly misplaced. It was coming from a good place. They were trying to protect the supply of medical masks for medical workers. But, to do that by telling people they don’t work when they do was pretty stupid,” said Howard.
Leaders of ReOpen NC, the group that has protested in downtown Raleigh every Tuesday for more than a month, have raised concerns about personal liberty and urged people to boycott businesses that require masks.
At a rally on Thursday calling for churches to open amid the pandemic, very few people wore masks.
One person in attendance said of wearing a mask that they, “refuse it, and…rebuke it in the name of Jesus.”
Howard says it’s an inexpensive step that could make a difference and the mandate would get more people to comply.