Brack: McMaster needs to issue statewide mask order now


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Stop the Spread

You wouldn't walk barefoot and bare-chested into a shop, especially if it had a sign on a door that said, "No shoes. No shirt. No service." To do so would be gross and rude.

So why in the world are people getting all bent out of shape when "No mask" becomes the same kind of societal no-no? At a time when more than 1,000 people in our state are picking up the coronavirus every day, not wearing a mask in public is about as smart as walking barefoot on sun-baked pavement on a 100-degree day.

No one likes wearing masks. They're not comfortable, just as pants are uncomfortable to some people. But we don't shop in panties or boxer shorts.

Because of the highly infectious nature of the virus through airborne transmission, health officials say wearing masks protects you from getting microscoping droplets that can infect you. But just as importantly, they keep vapor emanating from you from getting to those around you. Not only does wearing a mask protect you, but it protects others. And that's why it helps curb its spread.

If you're getting hot and bothered about masks taking away your constitutional rights, wake up. That's hogwash. A mask is a temporary measure to protect people throughout our communities from contracting the virus and dying — which they are. Almost twice as many people have died in the U.S. since March as did soldiers in Vietnam in years of war.

So suck it up and mask it up, South Carolina, just like mayors and city councils are doing across the state.

"Sometimes emergency circumstances are so overwhelming we must think of ourselves as a collective first and as individuals second," Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin wrote in a Thursday email. "And because of the COVID-19 pandemic and its continued accelerated spread through our Midlands communities, there is no doubt or discussion that we are in such overwhelming emergency circumstances."

Two in five cases reported in the Midlands since March have been reported in the last week, state epidemiologist Linda Bell told Columbia City Council on Tuesday.

Columbia, like Greenville, Charleston and other communities, has passed a local, temporary mask ordinance for when people are in public.

"This decision was not taken lightly by members of our city council or myself," Benjamin wrote. "As we watched other major municipalities enact their own mandatory mask policies throughout the last few weeks, we have been in touch with our Midlands community to gain a thorough understanding of how they felt on this issue. For myself, the overwhelming response from the public has been in support of requiring everyone to wear masks to reduce the spread of the virus."

So now it's time for Gov. Henry McMaster to buck up and mandate statewide mask use in public places for at least four weeks to try to stop community spread of the virus. To do otherwise is the height of irresponsibility and a prescription for more cases, overwhelmed hospitals and death.

State Sen. Mia McLeod, D-Richland, emphatically called for a statewide mask mandate earlier this week.

"Our state is in a public health crisis of epic proportions," she wrote in an open letter to McMaster. "And your refusal to mandate face masks in public is wrong. Dead wrong. We've long since passed our initial projections. In the last three months, nearly 26,000 South Carolinians have tested positive for COVID-19 and about 660 people have died because of this deadly virus.

"Now is certainly not the time for partisan politics or pandering to certain demographics. We don't need divisive rhetoric or leaders who openly mock and deliberately defy their administrations' own safety guidelines. Our citizens need leadership because slowing the spread of this virus is as much about leadership as it is personal responsibility."

Yes, governor, now is the time. If we want life to return more quickly to normal, our state needs to stop taking the virus lightly and mask up now. Don't you think it's pretty sad that we are actually yearning for the good old days of April when there were about 1,000 cases of coronavirus for the whole month, compared to 1,000 a day now because the virus is spreading?"

This post originally appeared in our sister publication, Statehouse Report. Andy Brack is the publisher of the Charleston City Paper. Have a comment? Send to: feedback@charlestoncitypaper.com.

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