Q: I saw on national news that every governor has the legal right to issue an order for urgent public safety like wearing masks. Isn’t this what Governor Cooper has done? Then why are Harris Teeter and Lowes Foods saying they won’t prevent unmasked shoppers from coming into the stores? They are saying a “mandate” is not a law.
Answer: Both chains had similar responses, saying that they are encouraging customers to wear masks and requiring employees to do so.
“Harris Teeter’s number one priority since the beginning of COVID-19 has been to provide a safe shopping experience for both shoppers and our valued associates on the front-line,” according to a company spokeswoman. “Our associates have been required to wear face coverings since April 21. We are committed to doing everything we can to comply with the face covering requirement without placing our valued associates in difficult situations. We ask our shoppers to follow the requirements and to be kind to our associates.”
For those not in compliance, she said, “our policy is for a member of store management to approach the shopper to inform them of the Order and offer a free, disposable mask. If the individual declines, we must remember and understand that there are many exceptions outlined in the order, and our associates are not authorized nor qualified to ask an individual to present proof that they qualify for an exception.”
A statement from Lowes Foods said that the store “will be following the direction of Governor Cooper. Our hosts (as Lowes calls its employees) will be wearing masks and we will have signage in the front of our store with the details of the Executive Order letting everyone know that face coverings are required.”
The governor’s order does list exceptions, including for those with medical conditions or disabilities which would be negatively impacted by a mask, children under the age of 11, and people actively eating or drinking.
“The order also states that people with an exception should not be asked for documentation proving they are eligible,” according to Lowes. “For that reason, it is possible that you will see someone in our store without a mask.”
According to the governor’s office, Executive Order 147 requires customers to wear face coverings and post notices at their entrances, unless there are certain exceptions, but adds that “Operators of businesses and organizations are entitled to rely on their customers or patrons statements about whether or not they are excepted from the Face Covering requirements” and do not violate the executive order if they rely on those statements.
Law enforcement personnel are not authorized to criminally enforce the Face Covering requirement; However, if a business does not allow entry because a person refuses to wear a face covering and that person refuses to leave, law enforcement can be called to enforce trespassing laws.
You can read more details in the Governor’s Office FAQ about Executive Order 147, and see more about the exceptions mentioned above, at files.nc.gov/governor/documents/files/EO-147-FAQ.pdf.