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Layton addresses mask wearing, enforcement of executive orders

During the county commissioners meeting Monday night, Jennifer Layton, public health educator with the health department, addressed health regulations related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

When going over proper state protocols restaurants are required to follow, Layton emphasized the importance of staff wearing masks to help reduce the risk of exposure to the virus.

“It is critically important that our wait staff, the kitchen staff, the hosting staff at all these restaurants abide by that (mask) policy because we just don’t know, we can’t look at a person and tell if they’re sick or not,” Layton said.

She noted that while certain staff can be exempt if they have medical conditions, they should be offered face shields, which reduces their exposure to others. She said the health department would help procure the shields for any restaurants who would need them.

The state Department of Health and Human Services recently sent a letter to Harmanco’s in Albemarle for not following mask wearing regulations. After receiving complaints, Stanly County Health Director David Jenkins also sent a letter to Harmanco’s and to other businesses, including Little Tokyo.

Layton told commissioners the health department doesn’t have the authority to enforce the state’s executive orders; rather it’s up to state and local law enforcement.

So if a restaurant has staff members not wearing masks, complaints should go to law enforcement in the jurisdiction where the restaurant is located.

She noted there has been a “ping-pong of responsibility” regarding which entities are responsible for enforcing the state’s executive orders. Whenever people have called the health department to place a complaint, they direct them to law enforcement and whenever people have called law enforcement, they direct them to the health department.

“We go back and forth and back and forth,” Layton said.

Violating any provision of Cooper’s executive orders is a Class 2 misdemeanor.

About Chris Miller

Chris Miller has been with the SNAP since January 2019. He is a graduate of NC State and received his Master's in Journalism from the University of Maryland. He previously wrote for the Capital News Service in Annapolis, where many of his stories on immigration and culture were published in national papers via the AP wire.

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