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Lexington Town Councilman ask for unity in the community regarding mandatory face covering rules aft

Lexington, SC (Paul Kirby) - Lexington Town Councilman Steve Baker read a prepared statement at the end of the town’s regular monthly council meeting on Tuesday, September 8th, regarding the division of the community over the mandatory face covering ordinance. In that statement, Baker called for unity in the town and pleaded with the area's citizens to come together to defeat a common enemy, the COVID-19 pandemic.

The statement Baker wrote was made after he had read former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley’s book. He also said he decided someone should address the feelings of the community regarding the face covering law after he and the other members of the town council received numerous emails and calls for and against Lexington’s mandatory face covering ordinance.

Councilman Baker gave his remarks at the end of a council meeting where leaders had just approved a 60-day extension to Lexington’s mandatory face covering ordinance. In that extension, the town’s leaders inserted language that sets a specific threshold dictating when the ordinance would or would not be in effect. That language states that if Lexington County drops below the threshold of 100 cases per 100,000 citizens for a set period of time, the town of Lexington’s face covering ordinance would automatically be suspended. If cases climb above that threshold again, the ordinance requiring face-coverings would automatically pick right back up. This ordinance would expire in 60-days from Tuesday's vote unless the council takes action to extend it again at that time.

Baker said that his statement following the vote had nothing to do with whether he was for or against the mandatory face covering ordinance extension. Instead, he said what bothered him the most was the anger some citizens directed at each other if their opinion on face coverings differed from one another. “What troubles me is to see how divided we have become as a country over this issue. People are not just disagreeing; they are disagreeing vehemently,” Baker said. “People get angry, they start shouting, cursing, or writing nasty things about each other on social media when this comes up. Instead of debating the merits of face coverings and whether it is right for a government to require anyone to wear these, people seem to be Immediately losing any perspective of what we are trying to overcome. It's really disheartening for me to see how divided we have become on this issue. No matter what you think about mandatory face covering ordinances, we should have the ability to sit down and discuss anything without getting so angry,” Baker said in an interview on Wednesday.

In his statement, Baker referenced many different and difficult challenges that Americans have lived through in the past decade. He even referenced our experiences as a country during World War II. In many cases, he pointed out that we as a country have come out the other side of these challenges both unified and our heads held high. “Now, during this crisis, it seems as if the mere mention of face coverings to combat this virus, our common enemy, comes up, it brings out the worst in people. It's so divisive at a time when we should be standing shoulder to shoulder in this fight. I'm not just talking about the people who believe we should have mandatory mask ordinances and I'm not just talking about the people who are against having mandatory mask ordinances. I'm talking about people who fit into both of these groups. I’m talking about how militant and angry people seem to have become over this. Last night, by adding the suspension provision to Lexington’s ordinance, we reached a compromise. We wanted to do the right thing, but for many people today, it seems as if compromise is a dirty word!”

During his interview Wednesday, Councilman Baker extolled the virtues of a commonsense debate on these types of issues. “We have to be able to sit down and debate, hash things out If you will, based on the information we have available at the time in order to make a reasonable decision. It seems like instead of debating an issue, people nowadays adopt this my way or the highway attitude. There is no option of let's agree to disagree available for many people anymore.”

In conclusion, Councilman Baker said, “We have to get to the other side of this thing,” referring to the pandemic. “We have to become unified and quit fighting amongst ourselves like we've done when we faced adversity before. It's a frightening issue; however we cannot let it divide our country. Remember, united we stand and divided we fall!”

You can see the complete text of Councilman Baker's statement by clicking this link: Statement.

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