Authorities see pullback as more states, counties require people to wear masks in public

After Governor Roy Cooper issued a mandatory mask requirement in North Carolina on Wednesday amid growing COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in the state, several sheriffs publicly said they would not comply with the mandate when the Friday.

The Sampson County Sheriff said the rule “is not only unconstitutional, but cannot be enforced.” The Iredell County Sheriff echoed that sentiment.

The Burke County Sheriff’s Office said “violations of the order will not apply.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends covering your face, along with social distancing and hand washing, to limit the spread of the coronavirus.

As states continue to loosen restrictions, facial coatings have become a common requirement for employees, customers, or both. In almost all states, masks are required to some degree, as reflected by the # Masks4All movement.

This week, Palm Beach County in South Florida issued a county-wide mask mandate. Facial coverage is now required in all businesses and government buildings, while using public transportation and in public when social distancing is not possible. The emergency order noted that the county experienced a “sharp increase” in COVID-19 positive cases in late May and June. The county has the highest number of COVID-19 cases in Florida after Broward and Miami-Dade.

Palm Beach County commissioners unanimously approved the mandate Tuesday, and one commissioner said most of the calls and emails he received were in favor, according to the Palm Beach Post. Still, the vote was preceded by protesters shouting “Freedom,” and dozens of local residents strongly testified against wearing masks during a more than three-hour public comment session.

“You don’t have the authority to rule my body,” said one.

“You guys are overstepping your bounds,” said another.

Several Florida counties, including Miami-Dade and Orange, have been sued for imposing masks. An attorney told West Palm Beach ABC affiliate WPBF that there are plans to file a lawsuit this week against Palm Beach County.

A day after the Palm Beach County vote, protesters in Arizona gathered outside of Scottsdale City Hall to protest against the recent mask mandates of the city and its county, Maricopa. Arizona County voted last Friday to demand that they cover their faces while in public due to the increase in COVID-19 cases. According to the order, Maricopa County had 2,055 new cases on June 19, compared to 137 on June 1.

The protest was led by a local councilman, Guy Phillips, and some 200 people attended, according to the Republic of Arizona.

Phillips addressed the crowd saying, “I can’t breathe,” before removing his mask and saying, “Madness.” He then paraphrased Benjamin Franklin, saying, “Anyone who relinquishes his liberty for temporary security deserves neither liberty nor security.”

Since then, Phillips has apologized for using the words “I can’t breathe,” spoken by George Floyd before he died at the hands of Minneapolis police last month.

Mask mandates have been a contentious issue throughout the pandemic, sometimes resulting in violence. Some health officials have rejected the mask mandates after public opposition. In late April, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine quickly rescinded a statewide order requiring the use of face masks in stores, instead saying that masks are strongly recommended.

In California, three counties, Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino, have rescinded the mask requirements in the past few weeks after the backlash. The health official who issued the Orange County mask order, Dr. Nichole Quick, resigned earlier this month after threats and protests outside his home. Last week, the California Department of Public Health issued a face mask order requiring facial covers in most indoor and outdoor settings.

“Science shows that masks and masks work,” Governor Gavin Newsom said in a statement. “They are critical to keeping those around them safe, keeping businesses open and restarting our economy.”

This week, the Governor resumed his coronavirus briefings as cases and hospitalizations in the state continued to rise. Hospitalizations increased 32% in the past 14 days, Newsom said Thursday.

Not all the demonstrations have been against the mask orders. On Thursday, the artists gathered on the Las Vegas Strip as part of a new pro-mask campaign, # MaskUp4NV, a day before Nevada’s new mask mandate went into effect.

“The entertainment community has been one of the hardest hit in the pandemic,” organizer Greg Chase of Experience Strategy Associates told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. “We are here to remind everyone that if we wear masks, we can come back faster.”

ABC News’ Ahmad Hemingway, Mina Kaji, Ben Stein and Alex Stone contributed to this report.

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