CONWAY, S.C. (WBTW) — Horry County Council voted 10-1 Tuesday to strongly recommend masks, but stopped short of a requirement despite another spike in COVID-19 cases.
The coronavirus is now spreading in South Carolina even more than it did during the state’s summer surge, including a sharp increase in Horry County. Despite that, county leaders are still not requiring masks in public places.
The seven-day average of new cases in Horry County has more than tripled since the county’s mask requirement expired on Halloween. The average in cases has gone from 48.6 to 157.3 from Oct. 31 to Dec. 6, according to data from the state Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC). Many cities and towns have extended their own ordinances since the county’s ended.
After more than a month of debate on what to tell people, Horry County Council voted to strongly encourage masks without requiring them, with councilmember Al Allen, who represents Aynor, as the lone vote against it.
“I wear my mask because if there’s any way that it will help, that I want to count on that, but we see people wearing it wrong,” council chair Johnny Gardner said. “We see them not wearing it. We see people wearing stuff that even if they’re wearing it right, it’s not working as a mask. It’s not a mask.”
Gardner said the county’s mask ordinance couldn’t be enforced, but he’s also skeptical at how much a strong encouragement will change people’s minds.
“I don’t think either one will be effective unless the people want to comply with it,” he said. “The people that want to wear their mask are going to wear it. The people that don’t want to wear their mask are not going to wear it unless somebody makes them wear it.”
The recommendation also urges businesses in unincorporated Horry County to follow guidelines from the CDC, DHEC, and Gov. Henry McMaster.
Gardner said county council can’t do much else to slow down the rising virus spread beyond repeating that advice.
“I don’t think there’s anything we could do,” he said. “I don’t think the mandates are doing the magic bullet that people that are in favor of the masks are saying it’s doing.”
Unlike the emergency ordinance requiring masks, the recommendation doesn’t have an exact end date, but Gardner said that will likely be when the governor and CDC no longer suggest that mask-wearing is needed.