Many remain focused on education as Gov. Cooper urges increased enforcement for COVID-19 restrictions


RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Many local governments say they will continue to educate businesses about COVID-19 safety protocols and save enforcement for repeat violators, despite pleas from Gov. Roy Cooper to step up enforcement.

This week, Cooper tightened guidelines that have been in place for several months to fight COVID-19. He said it’s going to take more people following the rules to slow the spread of the virus.

“It’s a call to arms to the people of North Carolina that we have to pull together and do what we need to do stem the tide of these numbers,” Cooper said.

During a press conference Monday, Cooper praised an enhanced state of emergency enacted in Greensboro. The city’s mayor said city employees are helping with enforcement, citing businesses for being over capacity and penalizing them for not enforcing the mask mandate.

“There are multiple ways we can enforce this order, and we are really trying to ratchet all of those up because we really need compliance and enforcement,” Cooper said.

However, many Triangle police departments and governments said they have not had to cite businesses.

Durham Mayor Steve Schewel said while they are considering adding civil fines like Greensboro, voluntary compliance is high. Durham police said they have not cited any businesses for COVID-19 safety violations.

“We are fortunate in Durham that enforcement is rarely needed because we have strong voluntary compliance. But when there is the occasional business which is a repeated violator of the safe practices, our city attorney’s office — sometimes assisted by our police department — enforces compliance,” Schewel said in a statement.

In Cary, a spokesperson said staff is currently reviewing the latest Executive Order to see if they need to change current operations. Town officials will continue to monitor and adjust if needed. They have not had to cite any businesses since the beginning of the pandemic, according to a spokesperson.

“We believe our focus on education is working and will be increasing our efforts in this area. Although Cary has the second-highest population in Wake County, we have the fewest per capita COVID-19 cases in the county,” a said spokesperson in a statement.

Wake Forest police said they have not issued any citations and “will continue to use their discretion to address violations on a case-by-case basis,” according to a spokesperson.

Chapel Hill police have not had to cite any businesses for breaking COVID-19 safety protocols, according to a spokesperson.

“We are proud of the efforts our community has made in the interest of safety for everyone, and we will continue to push for 100 percent compliance, leading with education and encouragement and reserving enforcement for repeat and egregious offenders,” a spokesperson said in statement.

Officials said calls related to gathering limits have also decreased as the community has become more accustomed to the rules.

Dory MacMillan, Cooper’s press secretary, said he appreciates businesses and local law enforcement who are enforcing executive orders.

“While action from state officials and local law enforcement is sometimes necessary, these measures are most effective when people work together to prevent the spread of this deadly virus,” MacMillan said in a statement.

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