MECKLENBURG COUNTY, N.C. — Mecklenburg County has an indoor mask mandate, but fewer and fewer people are choosing the wear them. According to business owners and the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department, it’s not being enforced.
You don’t have to go far to see the proof. Step inside and shop at a local grocery store, or head to the mall to grab Christmas gifts and you’ll see bare faces.
“In the restaurant setting it seems silly,” said Charles Read, owner of Queen City Craft & Gourmet near Ballantyne.
He still requires his staff to wear masks and has signs signaling to his patrons that masks are still a must, but he added enforcement is difficult.
“I'm not going to have my 16-year-old host confront a 45-year-old man because he's not wearing a mask to walk 15 feet to a bar to sit down and take his mask off,” he said.
He doesn't want to risk losing business and he's skeptical of the benefits masks bring to a restaurant.
“You can't eat with a mask on, so 99 percent of the time you're in a restaurant, you're not wearing a mask,” Read said.
The patrons at his restaurant who choose not to follow the mandate aren't the only ones.
Still, Mecklenburg County Health Director Gibbie Harris says masks are important to stop the spread of COVID-19.
“We have to control community spread. And the way we're going to do that is with vaccines and with masking. It's going to take both right now,” she said at a Mecklenburg Board of County Commissioners meeting in August.
The mandate hasn't been enforced by officials either.
CMPD told WCNC Charlotte since the mandate was reinstated in September, the department hasn’t written a single citation for it being broken.
WCNC Charlotte asked for updated data for reports of businesses breaking the rule, but we have not received the latest data if it exists.
The department did show multiple businesses were cited for breaking the governor’s executive order during the height of the pandemic from the beginning of 2020 through February of 2021.
The lack of enforcement and consequences mean many turn a blind eye to the rule, Read concluded.
“The mask mandate is kind of a moot point at this point,” he said.
Mecklenburg County will drop the indoor mask mandate once the percent-positivity rate falls below 5% and stays there for seven consecutive days. Lately, Mecklenburg County has seen a percent positivity rate above 8%.