HORRY COUNTY, S.C. (WMBF) – A number of Grand Strand municipalities have begun exploring the possibility of requiring its citizens to wear face masks in public as cases of COVID-19 continue to rise.
However, a vast majority of the area’s residents live in the unincorporated portions of Horry County, and at this time the Horry County Council has not announced plans to look into an ordinance requiring masks to be worn.
“I am in favor of what is best for everyone here. If county council want to discuss this topic, I am willing,” Horry County Council Chairman Johnny Gardner said Monday.
Councilman Johnny Vaught said he doesn’t believe masks do much to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus. He also believes making it mandatory for people to wear them is a violation of personal freedom.
“Really, I don’t feel like it’s the government’s responsibility or right to take away my right not to wear one,” Vaught said.
“That’s a call for the governor,” councilman Harold Worley said when asked about the topic.
On Friday, S.C. Gov. Henry McMaster said he will not mandate that residents wear masks or other face coverings in public, citing problems with enforcing such an order.
Rep. Robert Williams, who represents part of the Pee Dee, sent a letter to McMaster on Friday asking for the mandate, stating his concern about the increasing spread of COVID-19 across the state.
Recently, Horry County was dubbed a coronavirus hot spot by state health officials due to its continued rise in positive cases.
Over the weekend, Horry County registered its highest single-day increase in new COVID-19 cases since the start of the pandemic, hitting 214 positive cases.
Horry County Councilman Gary Loftus is asking that private businesses require masks, and encourages masks to be worn while residents are in public places.
“We could mandate masks in public, but not sure we legally can and enforcement would be virtually impossible,” Loftus said.
As COVID-19 cases continue to climb in Horry County, the question becomes what type of impact it will have on first responders.
Tony Casey, the spokesperson for Horry County Fire Rescue, said the department is fortunate in that its emergency response hasn’t been impacted by temporary COVID-19 vacancies at this time.
“If we’ve had to move around a few folks here and there as they wait for test results, we’ve been able to do that to this point,” Casey said.