On August 18th, the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners declared a Local State of Emergency requiring residents and visitors to wear masks in any public indoor spaces to maximize protection from the Delta variant and prevent the possibility of spreading it to others. Buncombe County Health and Human Services has developed the following guidance to answer the most frequently asked questions we have received about this mask order.
Are masks required in Buncombe County?
Yes. Masks are required in all indoor business establishments, offices and workplaces, public transportation facilities and vehicles, and any indoor place the public is invited or allowed to enter and gather.
Where do I have to wear a mask?
Masks are required in all indoor business establishments, offices and workplaces, public transportation facilities and vehicles, and any indoor place the public is invited or allowed to enter and gather with the exception of religious activities like weddings, funerals, religious gatherings.
Do I qualify for an exemption to the mask requirement?
The following individuals are exempt from wearing a mask, however, please note that even if you claim an exemption, a business may still choose to restrict your entry or limit your service delivery:
- Persons younger than two years old should never wear a mask. Very young children must not wear a mask because of the risk of suffocation.
- Persons with a medical condition, mental health condition, or disability that prevents wearing a mask. This includes persons with a medical condition for whom wearing a mask could obstruct breathing, or who are unconscious, incapacitated, or otherwise unable to remove the mask without assistance.
- Persons who are hearing impaired, or communicating with a person who is hearing impaired, in situations where the ability to see the mouth is essential for communication.
- Persons for whom wearing a mask would create a risk to the person related to their work, as determined by local, state, or federal regulators or workplace safety guidelines.
What are the specific requirement for a medical exemption?
The following narrow subset of persons with disabilities are exempt from CDC’s requirement to wear a mask:
- A person with a disability who, for reasons related to the disability, would be physically unable to remove a mask without assistance if breathing becomes obstructed. Examples might include a person with impaired motor skills, quadriplegia, or limb restrictions
- A person with an intellectual, developmental, cognitive, or psychiatric disability that affects the person’s ability to understand the need to remove a mask if breathing becomes obstructed
The following persons with disabilities might be exempt from CDC’s requirement to wear a mask based on factors specific to the person:
- A person with a disability who cannot wear a mask because it would cause the person to be unable to breathe or have respiratory distress if a mask were worn over the mouth and nose.
- A person with a condition that causes intermittent respiratory distress, such as asthma, likely does not qualify for this exemption because people with asthma, or other similar conditions, can generally wear a mask safely.
- A person with a disability requiring the use of an assistive device, such as for mobility or communication, that prevents the person from wearing a mask and wearing or using the assistive device at the same time. If use of the device is intermittent and the person can remove the mask independently to use the device, then a mask must be worn during periods when the person is not using the device.
- A person with a severe sensory disability or a severe mental health disability who would pose an imminent threat of harm to themselves or others if required to wear a mask. Persons who experience discomfort or anxiety while wearing a mask without the imminent threat of harm would not qualify for this exemption.
If I have a medical exemption, are businesses required to let me in?
No. A business can decide to not allow entry or to not provide service, even if you claim a medical exemption to the mask mandate.
Who is enforcing the Buncombe County mask requirement?
Enforcement is currently up to individual business owners. If a business or organization does not allow entry to a worker or guest because that person refuses to wear a Face Covering, and if that worker or guest enters the premises or refuses to leave the premises, law enforcement personnel may enforce the trespassing laws and any other laws (other than N.C. Gen. Stat.§ 14-288.20A) that the worker or guest may violate.