GEORGETOWN COUNTY — Despite pushback, the Georgetown County Council voted to extend its state of emergency and countywide mask mandate through April 27 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The ordinance was originally put in place at the beginning of the pandemic, and state law requires ordinance it to be reviewed every 60 days to determine if it is still necessary.
Those age 10 or older who enter a grocery story, restaurant, retail store or pharmacy in the county must wear a mask, according to the state of emergency, and all establishments are required under the ordinance to have signs near their main entrances referencing the ordinance.
The city of Georgetown also renewed its mask mandate on Feb. 19.
Before the council meeting on March 9, three residents asked the council to vote against renewing the state of emergency.
Tim Dunn, a Pawleys Island resident, said the council did not have jurisdiction to issue the mandate any longer and that renewing it would be an abuse of power by the council.
"American citizens have rights guaranteed by the Constitution," Dunn said. "So-called emergency ordinances such as this one extended indefinitely by local municipalities were never intended to become the normal way of living."
The state of emergency needed two-thirds majority vote, passing 5-2.
Among the opposition votes was council member Raymond Newton, who thinks that citizens should be left to decide whether or not they want to wear a mask or not.
"Why don't you think the residents of Georgetown County are smart enough to wear their masks without you having to tell them? Are we that much smarter than them?" Newton said.
Councilmember Everett Carolina, who voted in favor of the state of emergency, raised concerns over travelers coming to South Carolina for spring break, as well as the lack of priority over teachers getting vaccinated in the county.
"This is akin to, in many cases, a dress code. You can have a sign on your door to a business that says to enter, you must have shoes, you must have a shirt on," Carolina said.