Comments of Gov. Roy Cooper in a press conference Thursday indicated the likelihood of face coverings becoming mandatory in North Carolina to help turn the tide against the coronavirus pandemic.

Cooper said state officials are working on specific wording for making face masks mandatory while people are out in public.

They must be worn in all public indoor locations in Boone starting at 9 a.m. Saturday as a result of action taken by the Boone Town Council. Exceptions are allowed if this will cause health difficulties, for people eating and drinking at restaurants and for children under 10. Police will educate and give warnings before issuing infractions.

Starting at 4 p.m. today, people in Raleigh must wear face masks whenever they’re in contact with others who are not household members “where it is not possible to maintain social distance or where recommended social distancing practices are not being followed.”

The proclamation said law enforcement officers are “strongly encouraged to educate and encourage voluntary compliance.”

The importance of wearing face masks to prevent the spread of the coronavirus is clearly becoming more widely accepted as the pandemic worsens in North Carolina – and the numbers show it’s doing just that.

The fact that it appears to be necessary for the government to make face masks in public mandatory indicates how the American public can so easily become misinformed and misled.

Incredibly, face masks have become politicized. A Kaiser Family Foundation poll found that 89% of Democrats and 72% of independents report wearing a mask every time or most of the time when they leave home, but only 58% of Republicans follow the guidelines. Why should Republicans face greater health risks?

Like a seat belt in a car, a speed limit sign or even having to wear shoes in a store, face masks don’t interfere with anyone’s constitutional rights.

There is rapidly growing medical evidence that the use of face masks, along with social distancing, will greatly reduce the transmission of the COVID-19 virus in public spaces and places where people at higher risk of severe illness and death from this virus are likely to be present.

Face masks are important because some people infected with the coronavirus don’t show symptoms, but they can still spread the virus through droplets from a cough or a sneeze or even through speaking.

Even homemade cloth maps can help block these droplets.

The primary reason to wear face masks is to protect the health of others in public, but they provide some degree of protection for the wearers.

People need to understand that until a vaccine arrives for the coronavirus, face masks will be an essential part of the fight against this public health threat.

Face masks and other public health measures have slowed the spread of COVID-19, freed up hospital beds and bought precious time to improve testing and tracing.

In other words, face masks have helped enable the reopening of the economy and have saved lives.

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