Coronavirus

Mount Pleasant Mayor Will Haynie (right) talks with council member Kathy Landing Monday, June 29, 2020, after town council voted in favor of an ordinance requiring the wearing of face masks to limit the spread of coronavirus mandatory in groceries stores, pharmacies and the town’s municipal buildings starting Wednesday. Landing and Councilman Gary Santos voted against the measure. Brad Nettles/Staff

The whole mask debate was summed up quite eloquently at Mount Pleasant’s emergency Town Council meeting on Monday.

Local officials from Roper St. Francis and the East Cooper Medical Center urged residents to follow good health care practice and wear masks to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

And then a woman stood up and linked masks to fascism, anti-religion and a nefarious United Nations conspiracy theory.

There you have it. So, whose side are we on?

Amazingly, a couple of council members went with the black helicopters and voted against a local mask ordinance. Welcome to 2020, where even a piece of cloth can be politicized.

By every metric possible, a virus that’s killed more than 120,000 Americans in four months is spreading across South Carolina — rapidly in many places. We are now seeing new infections at about the same per capita clip as Florida, aka coronavirusville.

Which, by the way, just shut down bars and some beaches ahead of the holiday weekend because no sane person — or even Florida officials — can deny that this madness is getting out of hand. This isn’t a hoax, and it isn’t stoking hysteria to simply ask for caution and common sense.

Still, Mount Pleasant Mayor Will Haynie has had to drag his Town Council kicking and screaming through a pandemic to get them to do the right thing. And they are, unfortunately, representative of the general public.

Some people simply refuse to listen to scientists, who — check the scoreboard — have been right about this a lot more than the politicians. But these folks either don’t believe the virus is real, don’t believe it is any worse than the flu, or simply can’t be bothered to help curb a deadly virus for which there currently is no vaccine or cure.

And they are the reason some businesses and restaurants have been forced to shut down (again). Because oblivious patrons keep infecting their staffs.

“It’s not government closing businesses at this point — it’s the virus,” Haynie says. “We know that there are three things we can do: social distancing, wash our hands and wear a mask. It’s really not that hard.”

The mayor is absolutely right, but apparently this is very hard for some people. So, let’s go over it again.

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For months, epidemiologists have been telling us that it doesn’t matter if someone is willing to play Russian roulette with their health — the mask is for everyone else. Masks help stop the spread, because people who don’t know they have the virus are breathing on others and passing it on.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says “Cloth face coverings are most likely to reduce the spread of COVID-19 when they are widely used by people in public settings.”

Believe it or not, the CDC knows a little more about this than Zed on the Facebook.

But all across social media, you see people whining that simply covering their face in public is a conspiracy, that it violates their personal freedom or even their constitutional rights.

No, it doesn’t. Even state Attorney General Alan Wilson issued an opinion that laws requiring people to wear masks in public — which Charleston, Summerville and many other cities and towns have also passed — do not violate anyone’s rights.

Which should have been settled law after Spicoli v. No shirts, no shoes ... no dice.

We get it. Everyone wants their old lives back, to have a good meal in a restaurant, hang out in a bar or go to the movies. A lot of us look forward to college football season. But at this rate, it’s not going to happen. We saw a record number of new infections in South Carolina Tuesday. Again.

And a fair share of the blame goes to these anti-maskers.

It’s ironic that some of the same people who demanded we re-open the economy, which needed to happen, are now forcing some restaurants and businesses to close again — some of them permanently. RIP, Jestine’s ...

No matter what these selfish, self-appointed patriots say, defiantly not wearing a mask does not make any profound political statement.

All it really says is “I don’t care enough about the lives of other people, the economy or the country to be inconvenienced in the least.”

Reach Brian Hicks at bhicks@postandcourier.com.