Published On: Wed, Jun 24th, 2020

Face coverings to be required on EBCI tribal lands and throughout state 

 

By SCOTT MCKIE B.P.

ONE FEATHER STAFF 

 

Following a week of increased coronavirus (COVID-19) cases statewide and the first reported death among the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI), leaders are taking increased action to help curb the spread of the virus.  Face coverings will now be required to be worn in public on trust lands of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and throughout the State of North Carolina starting Friday, June 26.  

Principal Chief Richard G. Sneed issued Executive Order No. 17 (2020) on Tuesday, June 23 which states, “…beginning 5 p.m. on Friday, June 26, 2020, all persons 12 years of age and older must wear a face covering in all indoor retail establishments, businesses, restaurants, public commercial facilities, including libraries, and public transportation.  This order shall apply to the shared common areas in all hotels, campgrounds, and lodging.”  

In a statement on Tuesday, Chief Sneed said, “We all share the responsibility to protect the health of our community.  Our elders and those with compromised immune systems are counting on us to do our part.”  

This is the second round of mandatory face coverings for the EBCI.  Chief Sneed issued Executive Order No. 11 (2020) on May 5 that states, “Cloth face coverings will be mandatory for public spaces.”  That mandate was reversed 23 days later (May 28) with Executive Order No. 14.  

The recent Order No. 17 does caveat certain instances where a face covering is not required on EBCI tribal lands including: 

  • Dining in a restaurant 
  • Occupying a designated camping area 
  • In relation to a person’s medical condition or disability 
  • While in a private office 
  • While in an area of a retail establishment, business, or restaurant that is not open to the public 
  • While complying with directions from law enforcement officers 
  • In a setting “where it is not practical or feasible to wear a face covering” 
  • While in an outdoor shared space such as the Oconaluftee Island Park, sidewalks, or playgrounds 

N.C. Governor Roy Cooper announced the state’s face covering order during a press conference on the afternoon of Wednesday, June 24 – the same day he issued Executive Order No. 147 which also takes effect at 5 p.m. on June 26.  “It’s clear that our numbers will keep us from moving ahead into the next phase of easing restrictions,” he said during the press conference.  “So today, I’m announcing that North Carolina will pause and continue our Safer At Home Phase 2 for another three weeks.  This is not where we planned to be, or wanted to be, but, it is one of two important decisions that we need to make to effectively fight this disease.”  

He added, “The other important decision is requiring face coverings when people are out in public.  People must wear face coverings when in public places, indoors or outdoors, where physical distancing of 6-feet from other people who aren’t in the same household or residence isn’t possible.”  

Gov. Cooper’s order extends the state’s adherence to Phase 2 restrictions until at least Friday, July 17.  His face covering order includes 11 exceptions, “This Executive Order does not require face coverings for – and a face covering does not need to be worn by – a worker, customer, or patron who: 

  • Should not wear a face covering due to any medical or behavioral condition or disability (including, but not limited to, any person who has trouble breathing, or is unconscious or incapacitated, or is otherwise unable to put on or remove the face covering without assistance); 
  • Is under 11 years of age; 
  • Is actively eating or drinking; 
  • Is strenuously exercising;
  • Is seeking to communicate with someone who is hearing-impaired in a way that requires the mouth to be visible; 
  • Is giving a speech for a broadcast to an audience; 
  • Is working at home or is in a personal vehicle; 
  • Is temporarily removing his or her face covering to secure government or medical services or for identification purposes; 
  • Would be at risk from wearing a face covering at work, as determined by local, state, or federal regulations or workplace safety guidelines; 
  • Has found that his or her face covering is impeding visibility to operate equipment or a vehicle; or 
  • Is a child whose parent, guardian, or responsible person has been unable to place the face covering safely on the child’s face.” 

Gov. Cooper’s order also states, “Citations under this Section shall be written only to businesses or organizations that fail to enforce the requirement to wear face coverings…law enforcement personnel are not authorized to criminally enforce the face covering requirements of this Executive Order against individual workers, customers, or patrons.”  

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