Businesses in Sanford will be required to enforce mask policies for employees and customers beginning at 5 p.m. this afternoon, Sanford Mayor Chet Mann announced during a Salvation Army Red Kettle kickoff event today.

Business owners will be subject to civil penalties and fines for failure to comply with the mandate.

“I would rather apologize for inconveniencing someone to wear a mask than apologize to their widow because I didn’t do more to save lives,” Mann said. 

He said the decision was inspired by Gov. Roy Cooper’s Nov. 23 executive order authorizing cities to enforce the wearing of masks in public places. He pointed to Sanford’s COVID-19 numbers — 40 new cases between Nov. 19-23 alone, 2,381 total cases and 30 deaths in Lee County since April. 

“Sanford has come so far in the last six to seven years, and we’ve achieved so much and so much positive momentum,” Mann said. “We have $2 billion worth of companies looking at us now, and we couldn’t allow this community to be hurt or set back by this pandemic. All we need to do is comply with state orders and wear a mask.”

Mann also said his announcement was made out of concern about the coming Thanksgiving holiday and, in particular, Black Friday shopping weekend. 

Police, fire department officials and code enforcement will check in on businesses during the mandate to let business owners know “this is a real thing and it’s going to be enforce,” Mann said.