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SC: Council member’s attempt to reinstate Horry County’s mask mandate fails


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Posted By: Fielden Nolan (nolanf) on 11/20/2020

 https://nomaskers.org/index.cfm?key=browse_news&PostDate=all

- November 17, 2020

CONWAY — Mask wearing in unincorporated Horry County will remain a personal choice heading into the holiday season despite a last-minute attempt to resurrect it. 

On Tuesday, Councilman Harold Worley led an effort to reconsider a vote made at the Oct. 20 meeting that killed the state of emergency, and as a result the mask mandate. 

Due to that decision, masks have not been required in unincorporated Horry County since Oct. 30 despite a recent spike in daily new confirmed cases to levels similar to the summer. 

Worley was attempting a rare political hail mary by asking for the council to reconsider the Oct. 20 decision before the minutes, the official record of what happened at that meeting, were approved. Once the minutes are approved by a majority of council, the record is set into stone and cannot be changed.

Essentially Worley was asking council to reconsider the previous vote. 

“I want everyone to know I am for the mask ordinance,” Worley said.

Worley’s effort on Tuesday was unsuccessful. Ultimately, the vote to reconsider the ordinance failed 8-4, the same margin it failed back on Oct. 20.

Had the motion to reconsider passed, a second vote would still be needed to officially change the outcome from the past meeting. But the motion to consider failed and council approved the minutes from the Oct. 20 meeting. 

“I think it is our duty to wear the mask, and protect the people around you,” Councilman Bill Howard said. “It is just critical that this mask ordinance get passed ... let’s beat COVID.” 

But despite speeches from three other council members in support of the mandate, the vote to reconsider still failed. Council members against the mandate cited the lack of enforceability of the ordinance and overall freedom of choice as reasons to not require face coverings. 

“To me, making a mask mandate is the ultimate in politicizing the issues,” Councilman Johnny Vaught said before voting against reconsideration. “I am not anti-masks, I am anti-mandate.”

Councilman Danny Hardee, who also voted against reconsideration, added that no one strategy will stop COVID-19. He believes the county would have to mandate all the other strategies to stop the virus. 

“If you’re going to do it, do the whole thing,” Hardee said.  

Currently, Horry County doesn’t officially encourage residents to wear a mask, although every council member stressed the importance of slowing the spread of COVID-19. 

County staff was instructed to create a resolution that would strongly encourage the usage of masks in retail stores that will be voted on at its December meeting. If approved, this resolution wouldn’t be a requirement. 

Unless four council members change their mind, the mandate and state of emergency are unlikely to return for the coming winter months. 

Enacting a state of emergency requires a supermajority, or 8 votes, of council’s support. Horry County Council has gone in and out of a state of emergency since the beginning of the pandemic. The first state was declared in March, ending in May.

Several council members against being under a state of emergency at the time made a semantics argument over if Horry County is actually in a localized emergency and questioned if council needed to give up power. 

The council then re-enacted the state of emergency along with the first mask mandate in July when a similar spike was emerging ahead of the July 4 weekend. That ordinance wasn’t a universal mask mandate, as it was limited to employees of businesses, as well as people entering retail businesses like grocery stores or pharmacies. Masks were not required in restaurants or while outside. 

In July, both Gov. Henry McMaster and the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control encouraged local governments to pass mask mandate ordinances. Even as recently as October, local hospitals still urge all citizens to wear masks in email correspondence with County Council members. 

Despite Horry County ending its mandate in October, it did not create a snowball effect of other local governments ending their ordinance. Many of the local governments have extended their states of emergency and mask mandates since Horry County ended its own. 

Masks are still recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, South Carolina DHEC and local hospitals are pleading with citizens to keep wearing their masks. 


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