Residents urged to wear masks

By Jason Evans

Staff Reporter

PICKENS — As the county looks to open up more of its facilities to the public, residents are still encouraged to wear masks to prevent the further spread of COVID-19.

One of the questions fielded by county officials during a virtual briefing Friday morning on the “Kickstart Pickens County” plan to reopen the county concerned the need for masks.

“Will masks be required, or should we assume that it is now safe to go into public without one since more things are opening up?” a resident asked.

County emergency management deputy director Pierce Womack emphasized the importance of wearing masks.

“We do want to encourage folks to wear masks,” Womack said. “Wear masks if you can. If you’re in an outdoor, open setting, you’re not as at risk as you are inside of a closed business or some type of facility. So please work with us and let’s wear masks over the next several weeks going forward, at least until we get further in the phasing process (of reopening.)”

Wearing masks is “one of the best ways you can protect yourself and others from being infected with the virus,” he said.

“Anytime you’re out in public, (at) grocery stores, large big-box stores, it’s recommended you wear a mask,” Womack said.

It’s important to remember that anytime you touch your mask, “you’re potentially touching the COVID virus,” he said.

“So wash your hands,” Womack said. “Clean that mask with some type of disinfectant, or if it’s a cloth mask, make sure and wash that appropriately.”

Womack suggested residents could remove any clothing they can before entering their home, “especially your shoes.”

“You can try and prevent that from getting on your floors,” Womack said.

That’s especially important if you have children playing around your home, he said.

“Anything that you can do after you’ve been outside to protect that from getting inside your house, please do,” Womack said.

Womack urged the public to continue to monitor for established symptoms of COVID-19, including fever, cough and shortness of breath.

“Let’s don’t get forgetful,” he said. “Let’s don’t get complacent about what we’ve been doing the last couple of months.”

Womack said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently added new symptoms to watch out for — chills, repeated shaking, muscle pain, headache, sore throat and a new loss of taste or smell.

“Use those as you screen yourselves,” Womack said. “Use caution, obviously, as we’re out in public. If you have any signs or symptoms, please stay home and contact your health care provider.”

Continue social distancing, he said.

“Six feet’s what’s been recommended, but obviously, more than that, anything you can get is better,” Womack said.

When cleaning your home or place of work, “only use COVID-19-approved cleaning solutions,” he said.

“A lot of folks are just using regular things that may not be approved to kill the virus,” Womack said. “Make sure and look at your labels. Research that on the website to make sure that you’re using the appropriate chemicals.”

A cleaning solution can be made by mixing a third of a cup of bleach with a gallon of water, he said.

“But again, please don’t mix chemicals,” Womack said. “Please use caution for that, as you’re inhaling those as you’re cleaning your homes.”

Emergency management has received a lot of questions about cleaning and the virus, he said.

“If somebody hasn’t touched a surface in seven days, if your office has been unoccupied for seven days, the virus is found not to survive after seven days,” Womack said. “So schools, workplaces that haven’t been occupied in over a week, it just needs a good cleaning — not necessarily a disinfecting, but a good cleaning.

“Again, it’s not going to hurt to use any type of COVID-19-approved materials, but if the space hasn’t been touched in over a week, it’s not as big of a threat as something that’s being used every day,” he continued.

As businesses reopen, emergency management officials urge that employees be screened as they come on and off their shifts.

“If you can change the way employees work, stagger their entry times, try to minimize the contact times, the lunch breaks — anything you can do to limit that contact is great,” Womack said.

Gov. Henry McMaster has issued an executive order allowing only five people per 1,000 square feet, or 20 percent of the posted fire marshal occupancy, inside businesses, he said.

Seating where large amounts of customers and employees can gather should be removed or covered.

“Post signs,” Womack said. “That’s a good reminder for folks to try to prevent that congregating.”

Business owners may want to encourage employees and customers to wear masks, Womack said.

“This is just a prevention to keep anybody from getting infected, because we would hate to have to go back to a previous phase or go back to a lockdown,” he said. “So work with us as we try to get back to normal the next couple of weeks.”