On September 1, 2020, Governor Roy Cooper issued Executive Order No. 163.  This Executive Order, effective on September 4, 2020, will remain in effect until October 2, 2020.  Here is what you need to know from the Executive Order as it currently relates to face coverings in North Carolina:

Face Coverings

Throughout this article, the term “face covering” means a covering of the nose and mouth that is secured to the head with ties, straps, or loops over the ears or is simply wrapped around the lower face.  A face covering can be made of a variety of synthetic and natural fabrics, including cotton, silk, or linen.  According to the Executive Order, a face covering ideally has two (2) or more layers.  A face covering may be factory-made, sewn by hand, or can be improvised from household items such as scarfs, bandanas, t-shirts, sweatshirts, or towels.  These face coverings are not intended by this Executive Order for use by healthcare providers in the care of patients.

When to Wear

Unless an exception applies, people are required to wear face coverings in the following settings:

  • Retail Businesses;
    • All employees and customers.
  • Restaurants;
    • All employees and all customers except when the customer is seated at the dining table.
  • Personal Care, Grooming, and Tattoo Businesses;
    • All employees and customers except when the customer is receiving a facial treatment, shave, or other service on a part of the head in which the face covering is secured.
  • Child Care Facilities, Day Camps, and Overnight Camps;
    • All employees, adults, and children five (5) years or older.
  • State Government Buildings;
    • All Executive Branch employees.  Other state employees outside of the Executive Branch are highly encouraged to wear face coverings.
  • Public Transportation;
    • All workers and riders.  This includes air travel, ride sharing, and other forms of public transportation.
  • Certain High-Density Occupational Settings Where Social Distancing is Difficult;
    • All workers who do not require a special respirator are required to wear face coverings.  Workers may remove face coverings to eat, drink, or prevent overheating.
  • Meat or Poultry Processing Plants;
    • All workers are required to wear surgical masks if available.  If no surgical mask is available, then another face covering is sufficient. 
  • Long-Term Care Facilities;
    • All workers who do not require a special respirator are required to wear surgical masks if available.  If no surgical mask is available, then another face covering is sufficient. 
  • Other Health Care Settings;
  • Gyms and Other Exercise Facilities; and
    • All workers and guests must wear face coverings unless the guest is strenuously exercising. 
  • Museums and Aquariums.
    • All employees and guests. 

Obligations for Employers

Employers who have workers perform work outside of their homes must provide employees with a one-week supply of reusable face coverings or a new face covering daily (beginning as soon as possible) for workers to use at their place of employment.  New face coverings should be provided during the workday if the employee’s face covering becomes soiled or wet.  

Citations will be written to businesses that fail to enforce the face covering requirement, but businesses are entitled to rely on customers, workers, and patrons who claim an exception.  Businesses, however, are also permitted to refuse entry to any person who refuses to wear a face covering, and businesses are permitted to utilize law enforcement to remove this person under applicable trespassing laws. 


This Executive Order does not require face coverings for a worker, customer, or patron who:

  • Should not wear a face covering due to any medical or behavioral condition or disability;
  • Is under five (5) years of age;
  • Is actively eating or drinking;
  • Is strenuously exercising;
  • Is seeking to communicate with someone who is hearing-impaired in a way that requires the mouth to be visible;
  • Is giving a speech for a broadcast or to an audience;
  • Is working at home or is in a personal vehicle;
  • Is temporarily removing his or her face covering to secure government or medical services or for identification purposes;
  • Would be at risk from wearing a face covering at work, as determined by local, state, or federal regulations or workplace safety guidelines;
  • Has found that his or her face covering is impeding visibility to operate equipment or a vehicle; or
  • Is a child whose parent, guardian, or responsible person has been unable to place the face covering safely on the child’s face.

Anyone who declines to wear a face covering for these reasons should not be required to produce documentation or any other proof of a condition.  All North Carolinians are ordered to be on the “honor system” and are instructed to tell the truth as it relates to a potential exception.  

Worship, religious, and spiritual gatherings, funeral ceremonies, wedding ceremonies, and other activities constituting the exercise of First Amendment rights are exempt from all the requirements of this Executive Order.