BEAUFORT COUNTY, S.C. (WTOC) - Beaufort County Council passed the emergency ordinance requiring face coverings in certain places where people won’t be able to social distance.
The ordinance passed with an 8 to 2 vote. It will go into effect on Friday, July 3 at 11:59 p.m. and expires on the 61st day following adoption or end of the state of emergency in Beaufort County, whichever happens first. It’s important to note that this ordinance covers unincorporated areas of the county. Several towns in Beaufort County have passed masks ordinances of their own.
“One of the things were attempting to avoid is a public health crisis that causes businesses of all sizes to close and consequent economic disruption so severe it could ultimately result in a depression,” said Councilman Lawrence P. McElynn.
According to the ordinance, all persons entering any commercial or public building open in the unincorporated county with the exceptions noted below in Section 9 must wear a face covering and maintaining social distancing where possible while inside the building.
Exceptions from Section 9: Childcare facilities; schools; and churches or gymnasiums where social distancing policies are in place; patrons that are actively consuming food and beverages inside a restaurant and/or bar; persons receiving medical treatments, persons actively swimming in an indoor swimming pool.
All restaurants, retail establishments of every descriptions, salons, grocery stores, and pharmacies in the limits of the county require employees to wear a face covering at all times that the employees are in any area where the general public is allowed or when the employees must be in close proximity to one another. This requirement also applies to all persons providing or utilizing public or commercial transportation including tours and all business or employees while interacting with people in outdoor spaces including but not limited to curbside pick-up, delivery, and service calls. All such businesses must provide face coverings or materials for the making of such face coverings for their employees.
According to the ordinance, individuals exempt are: any person under the age of two or at the discretion of the parents, guardian or custodian, or who is unable to safely wear a face covering due to age or an underlying health condition or who is unable to remove the face covering without the assistance of others/any person traveling in a personal vehicle or when person is alone/in presence of family members.
Education and voluntary compliance are desired means of enforcement, according to council. Businesses can receive violation but no penalties or fines for now. Code Enforcement will be in charge of enforcing this ordinance for businesses.
Business owners and operators have responsibility for informing patrons of the above requirements and shall post conspicuous signage at all entrances informing its patrons of the requirements of this ordinance.
“We all know that the COVID-19 is a serious virus. To the point where we are now in a pandemic state. Not wearing a mask of any type to me, is like playing Russian roulette,” said Councilman Gerald Dawson.
“We are unique in that not only do we have 188,000 people live here, we have another 70 or 80,000 people on a regular basis who either work or visit here. We need to protect those people as well as the people who live here,” said Dr. Joseph Passiment, Jr., Chairman of Beaufort County Council.
“You know, like, I think we all need to take precautions. You know because there’s a pandemic going around. So I wholeheartedly understand so I think a fine maybe a little extreme, you know? I would say, say something to them, but fining people? I think that’s a little outrageous,” said county resident Ryan White.