Easley encouraging, not requiring, masks

By Jason Evans

Staff Reporter

EASLEY — Easley City Council unanimously passed a resolution Monday night encouraging — but not requiring — residents to wear masks to help stop the spread of the coronavirus.

Councilwoman Pat Webb led the committee that researched mask requirement ordinances. She reviewed the committee’s discussion during a city council work session held before city council’s regular meeting Monday night.

“We had quite a lively discussion in our committee meeting,” she said. “We had city council folks, lots of staff and members of the community who came, as well as members of the medical community.

“We’ve got a lot of increase in the virus in Pickens County, in this area,” Webb continued. “So we are a hotspot. There’s no vaccine, obviously, and there’s no cure. There’s treatment for symptoms, and that’s about all we’ve got. So that leaves us with only the option of trying to prevent getting infected.”

Prevention options include washing hands, “social distancing when you can — and masks,” she said.

“In our discussions, it was made clear that most of the commercially available masks are to protect other people from you, not you from other people,” Webb said. “There’s not filtration on these particular masks that we have. You’ve got to have the full regalia to protect yourself from particles as small as the virus.”

State officials have not “given a mandate” regarding requiring masks to be worn, Webb said.

“They have declined to pass anything,” she said.

The Municipal Association of South Carolina has presented the city with a draft ordinance.

“The state has said it’s certainly within our province to pass an ordinance requiring face masks — or we could look at a resolution,” Webb said.

That draft ordinance includes $25 penalties for the individual not wearing a mask and $100 penalties on merchants not enforcing the ordinances.

“It definitely put the burden on the individual merchant to enforce the ordinance,” Webb said.

She said the committee felt “the provisions of an ordinance with penalties was cumbersome, somewhat unfair.”

“It was our feeling that we would recommend a resolution that would help to push education, encourage people to wear masks and have signage available, provide educational materials,” Webb said.

The city can revisit the issue if the situation “gets a lot worse,” she said.

Councilman Brian Garrison said the resolution is “a reasonable first step.”

“I’m willing to support that, but I do think we need to keep an eye on it closely over the next week or two to see if other measures are needed,” he said.

If the situation doesn’t turn around, council should be prepared “to come in with an ordinance,” Councilman Kent Dykes said.

“The worst that can happen is we don’t have schools open,” he said. “The governor can come down and close down major businesses and major industries, and we don’t want that to happen. We want our citizens in Easley to take responsibility and adhere to the strongly recommended recommendations from this resolution and practice their social distancing, use their masks, wash their hands when they go out in public.”

The resolution states that President Donald Trump and Gov. Henry McMaster have declared the COVID-19 pandemic a national emergency and a public health emergency for South Carolina.

The resolution outlines the “dramatic increase in the number of cases in Pickens County” and lists COVID-19 case data from DHEC in the state and the county as of July 7. As of that date, South Carolina had 47,214 confirmed cases of coronavirus and 838 deaths. Pickens County had 1,007 cases and 5 death. The Easley ZIP codes of 29640 and 29642 had 490 cases.

The resolution says that Easley City Council recommends and encourages that “all citizens, city employees and visitors follow the CDC guidelines to social distance, frequently wash hands and to wear face coverings while inside the enclosed area of any public building and retail establishment.”

Retail establishments should require staff to wear face coverings “while working in areas open to the general public and areas in which interactions with other staff are likely in which social distancing of at least six feet cannot be observed,” the resolution said.

Food service establishments should require staff who interact with customers to wear face coverings while working, including delivery personnel, the resolution said.

Businesses and public places are encouraged to prominently post signage at all entrances encouraging patrons, clients and visitors to wear face covering upon entering, the resolution said.

The city of Easley will create a public awareness and education campaign.

The full resolution can be found on the city’s website,