SMITHFIELD – Executive Order #147 from Governor Roy Cooper now requires face masks or face coverings in all public places in North Carolina. On Friday, Johnston County Sheriff Steve Bizzell released a statement indicating his deputies would not be enforcing the face covering requirement in public areas, but he did encourage citizens to use common sense and practice social distancing.
Will you be required to wear a face mask the next time you go to the Johnston County Courthouse, a county office building, or local town hall? It depends. Inside the Johnston County Courthouse it will depend on exactly where you are.
Johnston County Courthouse And County Offices
Beginning Monday, June 29th at 8:00am, individuals headed to court will be required to wear face coverings in the courtroom and adjacent areas. Senior Resident Superior Court Judge Tom Lock and Chief District Court Judge Jackie Lee signed an Administrative Order on Friday requiring face masks in district and superior courtrooms.
The order applies to all attorneys, law enforcement officers, court staff, litigants, and members of the public. The order requires they wear medical style face masks or similar face coverings at all times in the superior and district courtrooms and in adjacent hallways and waiting areas. The order does not apply to individuals who have a legitimate physical, medical, or behavioral condition or disability but they are not required to produce documentation of their condition or disability.
Bailiffs and courthouse security officers are allowed to require a person entering a superior or district courtroom to remove a mask if, in their discretion, the mask poses a security concern or impedes identification of the person.
Johnston County Attorney Jennifer Slusser said the Judicial Order does not apply to the entire courthouse facility or other county office buildings. Slusser said the Order applies only to courtrooms and waiting areas adjacent to the courtrooms. Citizens entering the courthouse for other business will still be allowed to enter even if they’re not wearing face coverings. This also applies to other county office buildings.
“The Johnston County Board of Commissions has not amended its emergency proclamation or adopted an ordinance to mandate face coverings,” Mrs. Slusser said. However, county officials still encourage the voluntary use of face coverings. “The Board of Commissioners strongly recommends the use of face coverings, physical distancing, and frequent hand washing to stop the spread of the virus.”
Johnston County Public Schools
While schools are closed for students, the Central Office and other administrative buildings remain open.
“JCPS will operate in compliance with Governor Cooper’s Executive Order. Visitors will be asked to wear a face covering,” according to Caitlin Furr, JCPS Communication and Marketing Coordinator. “The district is currently working on a Reopening Plan for teachers and students based off of the guidance provided by the NC Department of Public Instruction.”
Town of Smithfield
Town Manager Mike Scott said, “We are adjusting our policy on Monday morning to require masks in our facilities. Town staff will also be wearing them when they are within 6 feet of another person or in areas where they have a propensity to be within 6 feet of someone else.”
Mr. Scott said town departments will be given the latitude to balance the need to wear a mask with their own safety while completing their assigned job tasks. In town buildings, employees are expected to adhere to the policy to wear face coverings.
Town of Clayton
“Our buildings are not open to the public at this time,” stated Town of Clayton Public Information Officer Stacy Beard. “Our employees who are working in our closed buildings will be required to wear a mask or other face covering in all common areas (hallways, break rooms, etc.) and when 2 or more people are in an enclosed space (offices, conference rooms, etc.). We have some employees teleworking and all in-house staff at work stations 6-feet apart.”
Town of Four Oaks
Beginning Monday, all citizens entering the Town Hall will be required to wear a face covering. The town has four employees who work together behind a partition and that area is not accessible to the public. Those employees will not be required to wear a mask at work.
Town of Pine Level
Customers will be required to wear a mask when entering the town hall for services and while paying water bills.
Town of Benson
“Our employees will wear face coverings when social distancing is not possible. We ask the public to wear face coverings as they access town hall to pay utilities bills or have other business at the front desks,” said Benson Town Manager Fred Nelson.
“Town employees rarely travel in town vehicles with more than one person. As staff encounter people in public spaces they wear face coverings and practice social distancing as applicable,” added Mr. Nelson.
Town of Kenly
(A voice message on Friday during normal business hours said the town hall was closed. We were unable to reach anyone for comment.)
Town of Princeton
“We have installed a glass partition on the Town Hall side and there was already one on the Police Department side. We have enough space to socially distance ourselves from one another behind those barriers, so employees may chose to wear a face covering, but are not required to do so,” said Princeton Town Administrator Marla Ashworth. “The current executive order requires a face covering in the public areas, so we will ask citizens to comply.”
Town of Selma
Town Manager Steven Hicks said all employees, citizens, vendors, contractors, and customers must wear face coverings when in buildings, public places, indoors or outdoors, where physical distancing of 6 feet from other people isn’t possible. There are exceptions including people with medical conditions and children under 11, people who are at home and people who are walking or otherwise exercising outside when not within six feet of others. Hicks told town employees if they did not have a mask to let their supervisor know so they could be provided one.
“Fire Chief McDaniel and I continue to receive updates from public health officials and closely monitoring the situation in our community and are concerned with the well-being of our employees and our citizens,” Town Manager Hicks said in an email to Town of Selma employees.
Town of Wilson’s Mills
The Town Hall has been closed to walk-in traffic since the first executive order was issued.
“We ask that those wishing to submit a permit or meet with staff, call first to schedule an appointment since most items can be handled through email or website. If an in-person appointment is needed, staff and visitors are socially distance in the conference and masks are required for all,” according to Wilson’s Mills Town Administrator Leighanna Worley. “We allow those who are not able to pay their bill online to come to Town Hall, but a staff member (wearing a mask) takes their payment at the door.”
“We are not requiring employees to wear masks inside town hall or in their offices. We’re complying with social distancing recommendations among ourselves. Our police officers are following the mask requirements … on coming in contact with the public, and visits (to) the DA’s and sheriff’s offices, and court facilities,” Worley stated.