In a Facebook post Thursday, Lee County Sheriff Tracy Carter said that while he encourages safety measures in the face of the coronavirus pandemic, he and his staff won’t enforce Governor Roy Cooper’s order to wear masks while in public:

Carter’s decision follows announcements on Wednesday by sheriffs in Halifax and Sampson counties that they too would decline to enforce Cooper’s order, which takes effect at 5 p.m. on Friday. Duplin County Sheriff Blake Wallace, who is a Sanford native, posted a similar message on Wednesday.

Reached for comment, Carter said residents would still be required to follow rules posted by private businesses.

“If you’re in a business that has a mask requirement, and you don’t want to wear one, you need to leave,” he said. “At that point, it becomes a trespassing issue.”

Sanford Mayor Chet Mann said officers with the Sanford Police Department are being encouraged to use masks themselves, and would be willing to enforce the order “where it makes sense.”

“We’re not going to have officers out just looking for people without masks,” he said. “But I expect they’ll enforce it where it makes sense. The main thing I want people to remember is that wearing a mask when you can is a very simple thing we can do that will help us stop the spread of this virus and hopefully allow us to get back to a more normal way of life sooner rather than later.”