N.C. Department of Public Safety Secretary Eric Hooks issued a letter last week stating that “state and local partners must consistently and uniformly enforce the executive orders” under the North Carolina Emergency Act.

The Watauga Democrat reports the letter says local law enforcement play an integral role in fighting the pandemic, and that enforcement efforts against willful and repeating violators is “key to slowing the spread of the virus.” Violations of the executive orders can result in a Class 2 misdemeanor charge.

According to the report, the Watauga County Sheriff’s Office takes reports of mass gatherings on a case-by-case basis. Major Kelly Redmon said similar to its approach to the statewide face mask mandate, the sheriff’s office tries to use education initially followed by law enforcement action if necessary.

Boone Police Lt. Shane Robbins said his department has a protocol in place to respond to large parties or events, and will issue citations for violations of the mass gathering prohibitions.

App State Chancellor Sheri Everts stated that Appalachian State Police will assist Boone Police in monitoring for large parties, and students who are in violation will be referred to Student Conduct. Everts said the university had already placed one fraternity — Delta Chi — under university interim suspension for failure to follow the Joint Council Safety Statement in regards to off-campus gatherings.

Hook's letter reminded officers that law enforcement personnel are not authorized to enforce the face covering requirements against individual workers, customers or patrons.

They are able to enforce trespassing laws or other laws if a business or organization does not allow entry to a worker, customer or patron because the person refuses to wear a face covering and also refuses to leave.