Here’s how CMPD plans to enforce NC’s new stay-at-home order, mask mandate

CHARLOTTE — North Carolina’s stricter mask mandate went into effect just before Thanksgiving, and on Tuesday the governor modified the state’s stay-at-home order, implementing a curfew from 10 p.m. until 5 a.m.

But how will it be enforced?

The stricter order says that everyone needs to wear a mask when they are with someone who is not a member of the same household. The order involves indoor public places only.

Gov. Roy Cooper is strongly encouraging people to wear masks inside their own homes when they’re with other non-household members, but that is not a requirement in the order.

[NC tightens mask mandate ahead of Thanksgiving: Here’s what you need to know]

The order also includes any public indoor space even when maintaining 6 feet of distance, such as:

  • Gyms, even while exercising
  • All schools, public and private
  • All public or private transportation when traveling with people outside of the household

On Tuesday, Cooper modified the stay-at-home order to slow the spread of COVID-19. Naturally, some are wondering how CMPD is going to manage the modified order.

During a news conference Wednesday, CMPD said the updated order grants the department the discretion to cite individual citizens for violation of the curfew. CMPD will continue to manage COVID-related complaints on a case by case basis, officials said, and every complaint is vetted for an appropriate response.

That has been CMPD’s approach to consistent enforcement of the order, and it will remain so until the order is rescinded.

“We won’t be randomly out enforcing the individual mask mandate,” Deputy Chief Jeff Estes said.

Estes said police won’t be setting up checkpoints or anything like that, and will primarily be responding to complaints when they get them. He said they would take complaints on a case-by-case basis and only cite people if they get significant push back. Education will be their priority and they will resort to enforcement only if necessary.

“We look at it as one more tool that we have in our COVID-19 toolbox to try and control the pandemic,” Estes said.

If someone is cited for violating the mandate, it’s a class 2 misdemeanor and they could be fined $1,000.

Last week, CMPD named several businesses that have been cited since the beginning of December for violating the governor’s executive order. Those businesses were Slingshot (Dec. 5), Hoppin (Dec. 4 and 5), Fantasy Lounge (Dec. 5), and Lost and Found (Dec. 4).

On Monday, CMPD said it had cited both Slingshot and Section over the weekend for violating the order.

Gov. Cooper, Sec. Cohen and Sec. Hooks call on local leaders for additional support

On Friday, Gov. Roy Cooper, Secretary Mandy K. Cohen and Secretary Erik Hooks wrote a letter to local elected officials imploring them to help slow the spread of COVID-19 in their communities by considering additional enforcement measures.

“Now more than ever we need help with enforcement from our local partners to fight this raging pandemic,” said Cooper. “Taking steps now to protect our communities by enforcing safety precautions will help reduce transmission of the virus and save lives.”

A recent advisory opinion from the North Carolina Department of Justice concludes that local governments may unquestionably enforce local ordinances that establish civil penalties for violations of the Governor’s COVID-19 Executive Orders.

“We are on a dangerous course,” said Cohen. “Everyone -- our counties and municipalities, businesses, community organizations, and every North Carolinian -- must act to save lives and make sure our hospitals can care for those who need them.”

“Good public health is vitally important to maintaining a safe and secure environment,” said Hooks. “Public safety professionals at all levels of government are essential to supporting the public health sector of our state and nation’s critical infrastructure.”

Read the full letter below:

Dear Local Government Officials:

We write today to strongly encourage you to adopt local ordinances to establish civil penalties for violations of the Governor’s COVID-19 Executive Orders. This gives law enforcement and other local government officials more flexibility to enforce Executive Order 181 and other COVID-19 Orders. We are attaching a recent advisory letter from the No11h Carolina Department of Justice concluding that you have this legal authority.

This pandemic is threatening to overwhelm the capacity of our hospitals and health care workers, and we all want people seeking medical care to have a hospital or ICU bed if they need it for COVID-19, a heart attack or any other ailment.

We have been working closely with local health departments and law enforcement agencies and many have become more vigilant in their work to make sure people comply with COVID-19 Executive Orders to keep their communities safe. We believe it is imperative that you help give them more tools to do their jobs, as well as set good examples by continuing yourselves with the Three W’s (Wear a face covering, Wait six feet apart and Wash your hands). Your leadership can make a powerful impact and save lives.

Thank you for considering these additional measures to slow the spread of the virus. We appreciate all the work you are doing every day to protect your communities.

Still, we are seeing record highs in cases, percentage positive and hospitalizations. Too many North Carolinians are getting sick and dying. We need your strong action and leadership.