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No More Masks?

By Brian Sherman for The Island Eye News

The Isle of Palms City Council has decided to let local residents and businesses determine whether masks are still a useful tool in the battle to halt the spread of COVID-19.

At their April 27 meeting, Council members voted unanimously to extend Emergency Ordinance 2021-04 for 60 days when it expires on May 12, after amending the measure to remove the requirement for face masks in restaurants and other places of business.

The Council extended other parts of the ordinance for an additional 60 days, including: allowing the Council to meet remotely; giving the city administrator authorization to develop plans to ensure the continued delivery of government services and to cancel special events permits issued before the ordinance was in effect; mandating that people comply with social distancing orders handed down by Gov. Henry McMaster; subjecting short-term rentals to safety standards and guidelines provided by the city; and allowing restaurants to offer outside dining.

“I would highly recommend that businesses continue to act in the best efforts, if you will, for the public that chooses to go to these businesses,” Council Member Randy Bell commented.

“But if we are not enforcing, and we have a massive amount of people coming from all over that have no idea what our ordinances are at this point, I don’t know pragmatically that we’re accomplishing anything by continuing an ordinance when it would appear to me that the general public is in a personal choice mode of operation.”

Police Chief Kevin Cornett pointed out that his department has not issued any citations to people who did not abide by the mask ordinance.

Council Member Ryan Buckhannon suggested that a logical move would be to pass a resolution encouraging people to wear masks.

“We’re creating laws that aren’t being enforced. It’s an unenforceable law. Let’s move on,” he said.

Council Member Kevin Popson agreed with Buckhannon and Bell, suggesting that the question of wearing masks should be left up to individuals and business owners.

“I think it’s time we sunset this and move on,” he remarked.

Buckhannon added that local restaurants should continue to be able to serve patrons outdoors after all the pandemic related ordinances expire.

Council Member Jimmy Ward suggested that the Council pass a resolution strongly recommending that people continue to wear face masks, and the Council asked city staff to draft such a resolution for consideration at its May meeting.

On Sullivan’s Island, the Town Council on April 5 extended Emergency Ordinance 202106 through June 4. In addition to limiting gatherings on town-owned property and the beach to no more than three people – unless they are related family members – the measure mandates face coverings for employees of food service and retail establishments and their customers, except when restaurant patrons are seated.

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