BOONE, N.C. — The town of Boone will be making face masks mandatory for anyone in public indoor spaces within Boone town limits.
According to the town, the mandate begins this Saturday, June 20.
Officials said law enforcement will immediately seek compliance with this mask order, but will not start issuing fines until 3 weeks after it is effective.
The three week grace period will give Boone residents time to adjust to this change.
After those first three weeks, law enforcement could start issuing penalties for non-compliance.
Folks who cannot wear a mask due to valid medical, religious, or behavioral concerns are exempt from this requirement, as are young children, officials said.
Boone Councilman Sam Furgiuele first proposed the mask mandate.
One of his concerns is tourists who come to town from coronavirus hotspots in Florida, Texas and Georgia.
"We need to do everything we could to try to reduce the transmission and protect the residents of Boone," he said. "I see that as my primary responsibility."
He said business owners told him about adversarial confrontations with customers when they're asked to wear masks.
"We required before, as part of the prior order, that the employees who were dealing with the public wear masks," he said. "But we weren't really protecting them."
Deirdre Drakus is in charge of the High Life vape shop in Boone, and she supports the mandate.
"We're all supposed to be wearing masks," she said. "The fact that everybody's going to be required to do it overall should help [prevent] the spread of the coronavirus."
Councilwoman Nancy LaPlaca was one of two town councilmembers who voted against the mandate.
"I personally am for masks," she said. "However, I do not want to criminalize behavior when most of the people who come into Boone are tourists."
She added she's alarmed by how the topic has become politically charged.
"People are very emotional about this," she said. "We could end up with confrontations; that's my concern. I don't want confrontations."
The town council is meeting Thursday night to discuss more specifics of the mask mandate.
David Jackson, the president and CEO of the Boone Area Chamber of Commerce, said business owners are frustrated and confused by the lack of specific details on the mask mandate.
"It's about consistency and messaging that consistency," Jackson said. "That's what we're hoping that tonight brings."
On Tuesday, Raleigh city leaders voted to require masks in public areas. Mecklenburg County leaders are considering a similar proposal, as is Governor Roy Cooper due to a spike in new cases that isn't exclusively related to an increase in testing.