Reopen NC co-founder burns masks in protest of potential face-covering mandate

Coronavirus

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – As Gov. Roy Cooper considers mandating wearing cloth masks in public, one group is already protesting the order.

Ashley Smith, co-founder of Reopen NC, posted videos to the group’s Facebook page encouraging members to burn their face masks with #IgniteFreedom.

Before burning a mask on video, Smith reads the warning on the box of masks that says the covering does not reduce the risk of contracting a virus or infection.

She said masks are not a sign of compassion but a “sign of control.”

The CDC and WHO say a cloth face covering may not protect those who wear a mask but can keep those wearing a mask from spreading the virus.

In another video, a hot dog was cooked over the burning mask while “The Star-Spangled Banner” played in the background.

“I just think that’s its totally unreasonable and unconstitutional,” said Smith.

Reopen NC protested several times against Cooper’s stay-at-home order during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Smith believes families and businesses should be able to make the choice for themselves if they want to wear a mask.

“If people want to wear a mask, by all means this is a free country, wear a mask. If certain businesses want to mandate one, I have the choice to not shop with them, but that’s their right to do so as well,” she said. “It’s the mandate. It’s making it a law for everyone that we take issue with.”

The CDC recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public saying they “prevent the person wearing the mask from spreading respiratory droplets when talking, sneezing, or coughing.”

“If I’m wearing a mask and you’re wearing a mask, that’s even further preventing the transmission of the virus,” said family nurse practitioner and co-owner of Preston Medical Associates, Schquthia Peacock.

Peacock said she supports a move to mandate cloth face coverings in public.

While she wears an N95 mask to treat COVID-19 patients, she wears a cloth mask in her office and out in the community.

“We’re seeing an increase of virus in the community,” said Peacock. “We’re at risk of continuing to spread it. If we could do something to halt that, it will help us in caring for patients, it will help us in use of PPE that we’re still limited in what we have.”

Peacock said state supplied her office with N95 masks, and 10-20 gowns. She said their regular medical supplier is back ordered and she worries about the reliability of other masks from online vendors.

“I’m very conservative over our supplies and I’m afraid and fearful that someone would waste that precious material that a healthcare provider could use,” said Peacock.

In a survey conducted last month by the North Carolina Nurses Association, 44 percent of responding members said their facility is experiencing a shortage of PPE. 30 percent of responding members said their facility did not have a PPE shortage, and 18 percent said they weren’t sure.

When asked if she would consider donating the masks, rather than wear them Smith said that wasn’t why she purchased them

“I didn’t buy it to donate it. I didn’t purchase masks at all throughout this entire situation, and there’s a plethora of masks available at every retailer in my region,” she said.

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