Clemson council to vote on making masks mandatory

By Greg Oliver
Courtesy The Journal

CLEMSON — A recent spike in COVID-19 cases that has prompted three local restaurants to shut down and fears that the increase could continue as Clemson University students make their way back to campus in the coming weeks are forcing Clemson City Council to examine whether or not to require masks to be worn.

Mayor J.C. Cook said Monday that council plans to hold a special called meeting at 5 p.m. Wednesday to further discuss the issue.

“What we want to do is urge people to wear their masks, do their social distancing,” Cook said, adding that city council wanted to have its meeting after Tuesday’s Economic Development Advisory Committee meeting took place in order to gauge input. “City council will discuss this and see if we want to implement an ordinance that requires wearing face masks in public. We’ve not gone to that yet, but if things look bad, we may have to go to that down the road.”

The EDAC unanimously recommended a mask ordinance Tuesday to go before city council on Wednesday.

During the past week, Tiger Town Tavern, Loose Change and SunnySide Cafe all shut down after employees tested positive for COVID-19. Cook, a retired owner of Tiger Town Tavern, said what the positive tests showed is “that people are disregarding the face masks and the social distancing” that forced those restaurants that recently reopened to now have to close their doors, at least temporarily.

“All their employees were doing everything that they needed to protect themselves, but still the results came back that showed it’s not enough,” Cook said. “If you look at social media and the things going on there and look at the pictures, you can see that a lot of the customers are the ones not doing the social distancing, not wearing the masks, and that’s probably where these problems are coming from.

“I would think if these businesses want to stay open and we don’t have to go back to a shelter-at-home thing from the governor, they may want to require people to wear these masks and social distance so they can stay open and have some business. Some business is better than no business at all if we have to go back to a shelter-at-home.”

Clemson and Clemson University officials are also awaiting results from wastewater testing at the Cochran Road Wastewater Treatment Plant. A joint release issued Sunday said initial results indicated the presence of elevated COVID-19 levels in the community.

When asked whether he felt the city should require people to wear masks, the mayor replied, “Personally, I felt we ought to do it just to protect people who aren’t protecting themselves.”

“I hate to be that way, because government can’t be mama and daddy to everybody in the world,” he said. “But, to me, this is very serious — people can die from this. We don’t want people to be sick, much less die. I would rather be safe than sorry, and if a business is leery about making their rules, they can blame the city, and I would rather us be blamed for being too safe than not being safe enough.”