Pickens County Council discusses county mask requirements

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PICKENS COUNTY, SC (WSPA)–Pickens County Council had a discussion on county mask requirements at its meeting on Monday night.

Councilman Ensley Feemster, who represents District One, said he requested a mask mandate discussion be added to the agenda.

“There’s just so many people concerned, and that’s the reason that I asked for it to be put on the agenda, and it will be one of the last things on the agenda,” Feemster said. “The main thing is a lot of people have children in school and I think it’s 12 years old is the age where it’s cut off and they can’t get, below 12 years they can’t get vaccinated, so they’re afraid that the child is going to get COVID and die.”

“If they want to let Clemson mandate masks that’s fine, but to just do the whole county, one size fits all type thing, no. It should be up to the individual they should make the decision, parents should make the decision,” said Sam Norris, Owner, Uncle Sam’s Antique’s. “Personally, I think having a mask on, makes it very difficult to breathe.”

Currently, county staff are required to wear masks when social distancing is not possible. Employees have also been encouraged to avoid face-to-face meetings whenever possible, double down on cleaning efforts, and stay home when sick. One council member said as a county, they are seeing more employees out sick with COVID, than they have in quite some time.

“So the discussion has happened and Mr. Roper is going to brief us on what the county is doing, what they have done, what they’ll continue to do as far as staff employees, team members go,” said Chris Bowers, District Five and Pickens county Council Chairman.

Pickens County Emergency Services said positive COVID-19 cases and EMS COVID-related calls are down slightly.

“We had 78 COVID-related calls and that actually was about a third more than what we had seen at the height of the first wave of COVID. Fortunately, this week, those calls have come down a little bit, almost 60 percent. We only had 47 last week,” said Chief Billy Gibson, Director of Pickens County Emergency Services. “Last week, our two week data was a little bit worse than it was this week. Last week’s two week data showed we had about 2,020 COVID cases, this week we were down about 1,698, so that’s about a 322 case reduction from just last week.”

“So it’s no secret that COVID numbers are way out of hand across the Upstate,” Bowers said. “Hospitals really are full. Sick people, non-COVID sick people, it’s difficult to get them the care they need, sick COVID people, it’s difficult to get them the care that they need, so we have to do something,” he said.

However, Bowers said he’s not sure a mandate is possible.

“If you’re going to mandate something you have to be able to enforce it and I just don’t know if that’s even possible to enforce,” Bowers said. “So we could at least just discuss masks and requirements whether it’s just in county buildings, which is something that we can do or whether it’s to work with the sheriff’s office on a county wide mandate, there’s even legal questions for even that, but it’s really just a conversation around masks, masks usage and the county’s role,” Bowers said.

“I’m hoping that they decide that they need to kind of wait and see a little bit more, to see what the numbers are looking like,” Norris said.

“I’d like to find out what the people in the different areas of the county feel,” Feemster said. “We have a lot of university people who are really worried about COVID,” he said.

Feemster also stated he hopes something happens.

“I would like to see it pass because it would make people more cognizant of the need for social distancing,” Feemster added. “The masks isn’t perfect but it helps some.”

Feemster said the county attorney would have to advise county council on what can and can’t be done regarding a mask mandate.

No action or vote is anticipated at Monday night’s meeting.

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