Horry County Council votes to end mandate requiring masks in certain places

Updated: Oct. 21, 2020 at 11:38 AM EDT
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CONWAY, S.C. (WMBF) – The Horry County Council voted to not extend the face mask ordinance that requires people to wear masks in certain places within the county jurisdiction.

The vote Tuesday night came after a lot of confusion from Horry County council members on exactly what was being voted on. At one point, the council amended the mask ordinance to change the wording from “masks required” to “masks strongly encouraged.”

“To be real honest, it was so confusing,” said Horry County resident Chad Caton, who attended the council meeting. “They were even confused on what happened, but I know where we ended.”

The motion to change the original language of ordinance passed in a vote of 10-2. Councilmembers Tyler Servant, Gary Loftus, Dennis DiSabato, Al Allen, Danny Hardee, W. Paul Prince, Johnny Vaught, Orton Bellamy, Cam Crawford Chairman Johnny Gardner voted in favor of changing the language. Councilmembers Bill Howard and Harold Worley voted against amending that part of the ordinance.

That’s when the mask discussions and an apparent “cloud of confusion” began.

Council members shared their thoughts on whether the government should continue mandating masks. Harold Worley, who represents District 1, pleaded with the council to take into consideration the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control’s recent COVID-19 numbers, which have been showing a recent uptick in confirmed virus cases.

“I believe [in what ]the doctors are saying,” Worley said. “Why would those guys lie to us?”

When it came time to vote on the original motion to extend the mask ordinance with the amended language, which required the support of two-thirds of the governing body to pass, council members expressed confusion about what they were voting for. Some thought the vote was to amend parts of the ordinance and not the extension.

The voting results reflected 12 red ’nay' checks, which reflects 12 votes against extending the ordinance. The voting screen showed zero green ‘yea’ checks that would have otherwise been in support of passing the mask ordinance.

One council member stated, “Wait a minute, what am I missing here?”

Another council member was heard saying, “So the amendment failed," later saying," I thought we were voting for the amendment, Mr. Chairman.” A separate council member stated, “this was the main motion.”

In the end, council members ultimately voted to end the mask mandate at the end of October, along with the state of emergency that was put in place due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Masks will still be required in places like retail stores and restaurants within the county until Oct. 31.

Horry County Council Chairman Johnny Gardner said even though masks won’t be a requirement, he still encouraged people to wear masks while in public places.

“We are encouraging people to wear a mask. We’ll continue wearing masks after October, end of November until it’s safe. Right now, we’re not saying anything is over, we’re just ending the mandate. Like the governor said - wear your mask, wear your mask, wear your mask,” Gardner said.

Gardner was asked if he intends to call a special meeting before the current mask ordinance expires, to discuss it further. He said that based on the information the councilmembers have, he doesn’t plan on calling a special meeting.

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