Charlotte mayor backtracks after claiming she can’t mandate masks

CHARLOTTE — Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles has walked back her earlier statements claiming she doesn’t have the power to implement a mask mandate for the city of Charlotte.

In a news conference Tuesday morning, Lyles claimed she did not have the power to require masks in the city.

“I do not have the power to mandate masks requirement for the city of Charlotte,” she said.

But that’s not the case. In a statement to Eyewitness News, the state Department of Health and Human Services said the city of Charlotte has the power to mandate masks after declaring a local state of emergency.

[COUNTY BY COUNTY: Local school districts’ mask-wearing policies]

“Cities and counties may implement certain protective measures, including mask mandates, during a local state of emergency declared by a municipality or county pursuant to the Emergency Management Act,” NCDHHS spokesperson Catie Armstrong said. “City and county officials can consult with their legal advisors on what options are available to them to protect public health during this pandemic.”

Following Lyles’ remarks, a spokesperson for the city of Charlotte said the mayor could mandate masks if she first declared a local state of emergency. Hours later, the city backtracked, saying Charlotte is already under a state of emergency, thus making an immediate mask mandate possible.

Records show the city has been under a state of emergency since March 13, 2020.

In a statement Tuesday evening, Lyles said she has not issued a mask mandate because the health department and the Charlotte-Mecklenburg COVID-19 policy group have no recommended it.

“At this time, we have not received a recommendation to reinstitute the mask mandate. If we do get that recommendation, I along with the mayors and other elected officials will discuss and consider that recommendation, which is consistent with the approach that we’ve taken throughout the pandemic,” she said. “The most important thing people can do now is to get vaccinated and I strongly urge everyone in our community to get vaccinated.”

Charlotte wouldn’t be the first to mandate masks since the emergence of the delta variant. Boone, Durham and Durham County recently issued mask mandates.

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Cities and towns in Mecklenburg County have been hesitant to declare local states of emergency and implement restrictions like mask mandates unless everyone is on board, and currently, not everyone is on board.

The county declined to comment.

Full statement from Mayor Vi Lyles:

“I want to clarify my comment from earlier today that I do not have the authority to implement a mask mandate. Throughout this entire COVID-19 pandemic, we have listened to the experts and taken recommendations and guidance from the Public Health Department and Policy Group. It is important that the entire Charlotte-Mecklenburg region work together to battle COVID-19. At this time, we have not received a recommendation to reinstitute the mask mandate. If we do get that recommendation, I along with the Mayors and other elected officials will discuss and consider that recommendation, which is consistent with the approach that we’ve taken throughout the pandemic. The most important thing people can do now is to get vaccinated and I strongly urge everyone in our community to get vaccinated.”

[Meck County issues mask mandate, weekly testing for unvaccinated workers]

The policy group derives from the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Emergency Operations Plan, which has been approved by all eight governments of Mecklenburg County. The role of the policy group to make recommendations to the elected officials.

(WATCH BELOW: Boone reinstates indoor mask mandate, mayor announces state of emergency)