MOUNT PLEASANT, S.C. (WCBD) – Mount Pleasant Town Council met on Monday for a public comment hearing and subsequent council discussion regarding mandating face coverings under certain circumstances as an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19, as cases spike statewide and Charleston County emerges as a hotspot.
The vote passed 6-2, with one council member being absent. The ordinance goes into effect July 1.
Masks or face coverings will be required while inside grocery stores, pharmacies, and town buildings or indoor facilities. Failure to comply with the ordinance would result in a fine of no more than $25 dollars.
Employees of restaurants, retail stores, salons, barber shops, grocery stores, pharmacies and town buildings or facilities must also require employees to wear face coverings during face to face interactions.
During the public comment hearing, those for and against the ordinance shared their views with council. The session took on an almost “point-counterpoint” style, with residents on each side invoking the same arguments, but with completely different views.
One woman said that requiring the wearing of face masks was a miscarriage of justice, and a slap in the face to her pocketbook Constitution. Shortly after, she was followed by a fellow Constitutionalist with a much different view. He said that he has great respect for the document that ensures Americans inalienable rights, but those rights are not absolute, especially if they endanger others. He said that smokers likely felt their rights were being violated when smoking indoors was banned, but when data emerged confirming the dangers of secondhand smoke, that right was taken away in pursuit of public health.
Mount Pleasant Mayor Will Haynie responded to criticisms of the legality of ordinance. “I think asking people during a global pandemic to wear a piece of cloth for a finite period time so that others may live is really not overstepping the bounds of government,” says Haynie.
Another man said that there was no data indicating that masks prevent the spread of COVID-19, or that COVID-19 numbers are rising for any reason other than increased testing. Several nurses and doctors followed with statistics proving otherwise.
The rise of new case numbers paired with neighboring municipalities taking similar preventive steps led to the need for such ordinance. “They are very concerning and I have spoken with representatives of our two large hospitals here in Mount Pleasant and they are both very concerned,” says Haynie.
Arguments from council members were along similar lines: is this government overreach, or is it a necessary inconvenience in furtherance of public health? The majority of council members ultimately viewed it as the latter.
Town Council also passed a resolution that “strongly recommends” wearing a mask in all areas of the town.