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Lexington County Council’s consensus is no mandatory mask law

Lexington, SC (Paul Kirby) – After three more municipalities passed mandatory Face Covering or Mask Ordinances on Tuesday, July 7, 2020, The Lexington Ledger’s editor decided to poll Lexington County Council to see if there was any consensus on whether one of these type of ordinances should be appropriate countywide. Neighboring Richland County had already put one in place as did the cities of Columbia, West Columbia, Cayce, and the towns of Lexington and Irmo. All were either in Lexington County or close around us.

On Wednesday morning, we texted all nine members of the council and asked all the following question: Just an informal poll. After all these towns and cities are passing these mask ordinances, is Lexington County Council considering this countywide or not at all at the moment? Yes, no, maybe? We got answers from eight members of the nine-member council and honestly, we’re not sure we had the correct phone number for the ninth.

The messages came back quickly and most said more than yes, no, or maybe. They elaborated after their initial short answer, sometimes with three or four additional text messages. Some were so long that we could never put the entire answers or reason here. Please remember, these council members were answering by text so even though they often sent long answers, they may sound a bit abbreviated because they are text.

The consensus of the council was that there should be no mandatory face covering ordinance for Lexington County. Six said no but then added more regarding their reasoning behind their answer in subsequent text. Two said maybe. One of the maybes had some conditions, there would be no enforcement clause or effort that would require any agency or person to police the ordinance passed. The second maybe initially said that but then clearly showed he was leaning toward no.

The first member of council who said maybe said, “The only consideration from my prospective would be an ordinance that would have no fines. This would allow the businesses to have the ability and confidence to post on their doors that Lexington County has a Mask Ordinance and to please wear a mask. Nothing prevents businesses from doing that now but because they do not want to turn any customers away, most do not require them.”

She cited an instance that occurred after the passing of the Richland County Face Covering Ordinance. She said she sat in her car on two different occasions the previous Saturday while a family member went into stores in Richland County. She said, “50% of the citizens wore no masks and RC (Richland County) has fines. Stores did post that masks are required but it did not matter. Lexington County will not burden our law enforcement with this.” She concluded by saying that to her it was simply common sense to say the Council recognizes the need to be as safe as the county possibly can. “Not sure we will get the results needed but we will raise awareness. I do not believe there is enough support on our Council to pass an ordinance. I might be the only one to possibly consider it.”

One member sent us the entire text of one of the ordinances passed by a Lexington County municipality and then said, “Now tell me how in the heck are you going to enforce this? This is political lipstick on a pig!” He continued by saying, “Virtually impossible to enforce-our police department needs to be focusing on the crimes in our communities.”

Another member said, “I'm not in favor of countywide. The most I would consider is a resolution to ask residents and visitors alike to follow the CDC guidelines.” That member said he had been out of town recently in a municipality that had already passed an Emergency Face Covering Ordinance. He called it, “political theater” and said nobody is enforcing the "emergency ordinances" that had passed. He continued by saying that the businesses he visited were nonchalant about it all. “I have been to three restaurants in 3 days and not a soul had on a mask with exception of the wait staff.”

Yet another said, “An enacted mask ordinance would only apply to the unincorporated areas of Lexington County, which is mostly rural. It makes more sense to adopt only in the municipalities that have more population and many businesses.”

One called and said simply, “No. I’ve had some people call me saying they don’t want us to have one, but I haven’t had anyone contact me to say we should do it. I really don’t think it’s our place to tell people what to do. Let them make their own decisions thinking about what’s right for them.”

One member was even more brief than that. He simply said, “Not at all from my view.”

The last few that answered our text both said no. One made no bones about this. She said. “No! If we are going to govern, it should be for a legitimate reason & enforceable.. no feel good legislation with many exemptions. 90% of restaurants, services & retail are in the municipalities, so any countywide ordinance would only apply in the unincorporated areas! I'm in favor of masks if necessary... not in favor of government overreach!” Remember these were text so the grammar and sentences would reflect that style of writing.

The last answered maybe, but his text reflected that he was leaning toward no. He said, “Maybe I don't see much good for us to worry about it since the majority of the businesses are in municipalities. It would basically be window dressing for us to do it.”

I would expect that the ninth member would not sway the consensus of this council one way or the other. It looks as if the Lexington County Council is not or will not consider a mandatory Face Covering or Mask Ordinance anytime soon. They feel that it’s your responsibility to do what’s right for you and their group as a government, should not interfere with your right as an American to decide what that “right thing” is for themselves.

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