Horry County Council Approves Mask Ordinance | Covid-19 coverage


Hide yourself, Horry County.

The county council on Friday approved an emergency ordinance that requires people to wear headgear in many public places, including retail stores. The ordinance, which applies to areas of the county that are not within city limits, aims to slow the spread of COVID-19.

“We can’t let this thing get out of hand and have the governor shut down beaches, shut down hotels, shut down restaurants. [and] retail shutdown, ”said Horry County Councilor Harold Worley. “We just don’t want to go. … If we can do a little towards this end to help, I think it’s the right thing to do. I don’t like to give this prescription any more than you guys. But again, I think it’s the right thing to do.

The vote came on the same day that the State Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) announced 237 new cases of COVID-19 in Horry County, bringing the county’s total number of cases to 3,963 with 49 disease-related deaths.

Some council members said they had been in contact with hospital officials in the area who told them they were concerned because their facilities were at or near full capacity. Advisers also said the order would encourage people to follow the advice of federal and state health officials, who said the masks could help prevent someone with COVID-19 – especially an asymptomatic person – from spread the disease to others.

“We need to do something to protect our citizens, and they appear to be supporting a mask ordinance,” said Councilor Dennis DiSabato, who noted he had received 30 to 40 emails and a few calls about it. Almost all of these people were in favor of a mask ordinance. “They realize that we are in a state of emergency. People are scared. They are not happy with the lack of action. “

Councilor Gary Loftus said hospital officials he spoke to told him they were concerned about their capacity over the next 10 days to two weeks.

“If we fail to do that, we are sending the absolutely wrong message to the people of Horry County,” he said. “I don’t think we need to do this just yet. … If anything we can do saves a bed here or a bed there, makes them do their jobs better, we should do it. Is it enforceable? No. In practice, this is not the case. But it will give people the opportunity to feel good about obeying a prescription and preventing them from entering the hospital.

Councilor Tyler Servant agrees. He said he spoke to officials at Conway Medical Center who told him they were at full capacity and they were seeing an increase in the number of positive COVID-19 cases.

“Going through something like this is a last resort,” he says. “It’s something I didn’t think I was in favor of a few weeks ago, but that said, we’re in tough times right now. And tough decisions have to be made.

The ordinance requires that people entering businesses wear masks inside these establishments. Masks can be removed to receive certain services, such as a haircut, or for someone to have a meal at a restaurant.

Under the new policy, restaurants and retail stores must require their employees to wear masks, and the ordinance also applies to personal care providers such as nail salons, tattoo parlors and salons. hairdressing.

There are exceptions for people with health conditions that prevent them from wearing masks and for those whose religious beliefs do not allow them to cover their faces.

Violation of the policy is a civil offense punishable by a fine of $ 25 for the first offense, $ 50 for a second offense and $ 100 for all subsequent offenses. The ordinance states that each day of not wearing a mask would be considered a separate offense.

Myrtle Beach and North Myrtle Beach have approved similar policies. Conway executives will vote on a mask term on Monday.

The county ordinance was narrowly passed. It’s an emergency policy, which means it requires at least a two-thirds majority to get approved. The vote was 8-4. Council members Worley, DiSabato, Tyler Servant, Gary Loftus, Orton Bellamy, Cam Crawford, Bill Howard and President Johnny Gardner voted in favor of the ordinance. Councilors Al Allen, Johnny Vaught, Paul Prince and Danny Hardee opposed it.

Dissenters have expressed concerns about the enforceability of the order and whether the public will actually comply with it.

“He’s a paper tiger,” Vaught said. “It is the ghost of a law. If we don’t have a binding order, then we shouldn’t have an order. “

Allen agreed, saying the county didn’t have enough officers to enforce policies already on the books. He also said the county’s 911 system could be overloaded with people reporting people to stores without a mask.

“People will start talking to each other,” he says. “ It’s going to get to a point where you’re not just going to have verbal confrontations in public about it, but it’s going to get physical and someone is going to get hurt because people don’t like other people in their area. business.

Hardee, whose district includes farming communities such as Green Sea and Longs, said he would support the ordinance if it applied strictly to areas east of SC 90. He said he would not support a county-wide ordinance as it would be an unreasonable burden on rural communities. .

“Some of you [have] long enough to know what it’s like to get off the pitch, ”he said. “You go to your local store over there, you want to treat yourself to a drink and a honey bun. They say you can’t come in [without a mask] because the county adopted this ordinance. I want any of you to go and explain to them where they get it.

Before council approved the ordinance, some council members attempted to change the language of politics to simply encourage the public to wear masks. They also talked about reducing the fines to $ 1 or $ 2 or even removing them altogether.

But County District Attorney Arrigo Carotti recommended keeping the fines in the order.

“It’s the only thing under the law that catches people’s attention,” he said. “Kind of like the part of the Bible that says the wrath of God can be served if people do not obey His will.”

The order took effect immediately. It will remain in place for 60 days unless the board terminates it earlier.

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