Horry County Council votes 8-4 in favor of mask ordinance

Grand Strand

HORRY COUNTY, S.C. (WBTW) — Horry County Council voted 8-4 in favor of a mask ordinance during an emergency council meeting Friday evening.

Chairman Johnny Gardner, Harold Worley, Bill Howard, Dennis DiSabato, Gary Loftus, Tyler Servant, Cam Crawford, and Orton Bellamy all voted in favor of the ordinance.

Johnny Vaught, W. Paul Prince, Danny Hardee, and Al Allen all voted against the ordinance.

The ordinance, effective immediately, requires anyone entering a retail business, including grocery stores, pharmacies, and personal service businesses to wear a mask while inside the establishment, unless the mask interferes with getting a service such as a haircut, in which case the mask can be removed during that time.

The business is not responsible for enforcing the requirement, however they must post signs at all entrances to notify customers of the ordinance.

The ordinance also states businesses must require their employees to wear masks “at all times while working in areas open to the general public or in areas in which interactions with other staff is likely.”

Exemptions to the ordinance include: any person who can’t safely wear a face covering due to age, underlying health conditions, religious beliefs, or is unable to remove the mask without assistance, or is asked by law enforcement or first responders to remove the mask.

Anyone who doesn’t comply with the ordinance could be found guilty of a civil infraction and fined $25 for a first offense, $50 for a second offense, and $100 for third and subsequent offenses. Each day of a continuing violation counts as a separate offense.

The ordinance also urges restaurants and accommodations, including residents and visitors, to follow recommendations of the Governor, CDC, DHEC, and the South Carolina Restaurant and Lodging Association.

The ordinance is in effect for 60 days unless terminated sooner.

The ordinance also declares a state of emergency in Horry County.

Read the full ordinance below:

Updates from the meeting below:

  • An ordinance is being read to declare a state of emergency and require masks to be worn
  • One council member says he doesn’t agree that we are in a state of emergency
  • Another council member also doesn’t agree with declaring a state of emergency, says declaring a state of emergency would be like “crying wolf”
  • Bill Howard says it is an emergency to keep businesses alive and something must be done.
  • “If we don’t, and this virus gets worse, the Governor is going to shut us all down, and that’s worse than enacting an ordinance asking everyone to wear masks,” Howard said.
  • Harold Worley said he is worried about hospitals being near capacity and that the virus has created a crisis, says he doesn’t like making this ordinance, but said he supports it because it is the right thing to do
  • “If we can do a little bit on this end to help, I think it’s the right thing to do,” Worley said
  • “We’re here to protect the constituents and we need to do the right thing,” Howard said.
  • Dennis DiSabato said he’s gotten 30 or 40 emails over the past week and said all but one were in support of a mask ordinance
  • Gary Loftus said it’s something that has to be done and the people are asking for it.
  • “If we fail to do it we are sending the wrong message to the people of Horry County,” Loftus said.
  • Tyler Servant said he’s talked to representatives from the major hospitals in the area and they are extremely worried.
  • Servant says difficult decisions have to be made but council has to do everything they can to keep constituents safe
  • Cam Crawford says he sees both sides of the argument but is concerned hospitals are nearing capacity and council needs to do something, but is worried about enforcement. Crawford asks if a fine can be removed from the ordinance.
  • Johnny Vaught said that could be an enforcement issue
  • Vaught said he agrees with the ordinance but said an ordinance that can’t be enforced is an issue
  • Vaught said businesses should require employees to wear masks but their responsibility should stop there
  • W. Paul Prince said people need to be responsible themselves and council shouldn’t have to do anything
  • Al Allen said he’s concerned about the enforcement aspect of the ordinance and said it’s going to overload the court system.
  • “We can’t legislate common sense and we can’t legislate morality,” Allen said. “We are getting close to infringing on people’s rights.”
  • Allen said he is worried about confrontations that could arise if people start calling the police for people not wearing a mask.
  • Allen says wearing a mask should be a personal decision
  • Orton Bellamy motions to amend the language to say “encouraged to” wear a mask instead of “required to”
  • Worley says an ordinance that only encourages masks instead of requiring them is pointless
  • The amendment has been withdrawn
  • The ordinance was passed 8-4

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