The town of Summerville will no longer enforce any mask requirements for citizens at restaurants and some retail stores.
At a Thursday night town council meeting, officials voted 5-2 to amend its emergency mask ordinance to only apply to grocery stores, pharmacies and town-owned buildings.
Citizens will no longer be required by the town to wear masks in places like barbershops, restaurants and clothing stores.
The ordinance will be in place until Sept. 30. The rule originally called for the wearing of masks in all food and retail establishments.
“I think this is the best we can do,” said Councilman Walter Bailey.
Councilmen Aaron Brown and Bob Jackson were the only two members to oppose the amendment. The two officials wanted the ordinance to go beyond Sept. 30.
Brown said he would have preferred to see the ordinance reinstated without any amendments. The current adjustments were a good middle ground, he said.
"I think we need to stand firm on protecting our citizens," he said.
Councilwoman Kima Garten-Schmidt has consistently been opposed to reinstating the mask rule at all. She said she sees the current amendment as a compromise.
“I figured this is the closest thing to the next step of ending it," she said. “We’re getting a step closer to our freedoms.”
The emergency mask ordinance was approved back in June and was slated to last for nine days. The rule has been routinely reinstated at council meetings.
Diane Frankenberger owns People, Places & Quilts in the downtown area. She was one of the few residents who spoke out in support of approving the ordinance at the meeting.
"I just feel like it's the right thing to do," she said. "It's a precaution."
Other supporters pushed for the rule's approval to accommodate school restarting in Dorchester District 2 and Labor Day weekend.
Elizabeth Ude said though she isn't a resident, she does frequent the Summerville area. She was opposed to having the ordinance reinstated at the meeting.
“It’s dividing us,” she said.
Many residents argued the ordinance was unenforceable. One resident said the continued uses of masks are going to increase occurrences of crimes like kidnapping. Another argued that the mask “looked Islamic” and conflicted with her Christian beliefs.
The S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control reported 49 COVID-19 cases in Dorchester County when the town’s ordinance was originally approved in June. It reported seven cases in the county on Thursday.
The Dorchester County Council voted to drop its mask ordinance at a Tuesday night meeting. That rule had applied to unincorporated portions of the county.