Gov. Roy Cooper’s order on Wednesday that people wear anti-COVID-19 masks while in public in North Carolina came hours after the City of Rocky Mount released a proclamation signed by Mayor Sandy Roberson requiring people to start wearing them in public locally by 5 p.m. on Friday.

Cooper’s mandate sets the statewide start requirement at the same time and date as Roberson’s document.

The subject of making people in Rocky Mount wear masks came up during Monday’s City Council meeting.

Councilman Richard Joyner recommended consideration of action, saying he believes it would be one way to help create a safer environment.

Councilman Reuben Blackwell said, “COVID is not going to go away unless we make it go away.”

Additionally, Blackwell made clear he wanted Rocky Mount to follow the lead of action taken in places such as Raleigh, where on June 17 Mayor Mary-Ann Baldwin signed a proclamation requiring people wear masks while in public there.

Blackwell said that, “Those communities in those states that are proactive in communicating with their constituents about safety measures and protocols — and in making available testing opportunities and then are creating more than a recommendation about safety — seem to fare better, as far as controlling community spread.”

Blackwell took the lead in supporting action as a municipality to show the City of Rocky Mount values residents’ lives.

“And if we have to encourage folk by passing an ordinance or whatever stating that we should mask every time we go out in public, I’m fully in favor of that, because people are being infected,” Blackwell said.

Blackwell also said that what is yet unknown is the science of how the coronavirus affects major organ systems and how the residual effects can play out in society.

Blackwell, playing on the saying, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” said, “I think an ounce of masking is worth whatever vaccine will ultimately be discovered and applied.”

The council moved on to dealing with the rest of the items on the agenda before later returning to the matter of the masks as a separate item.

Near the end of the council meeting, Blackwell moved for — and received a supporting motion — to have the municipality adopt a stance requiring people in public places, restaurants and gathering places in Rocky Mount to wear the masks.

City Attorney Jep Rose, however, said that an ordinance first has to be put in writing and brought back to the council for a vote during the council’s next regular meeting, which would not be until next month.

Roberson signed the proclamation on Tuesday and the Telegram received the document on Wednesday morning via an email from a municipal spokesman.