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Loris Mayor Todd Harrelson signs the proclamation asking Loris residents and visitors to wear a face mask. Photo by Annie Rigby

Loris mayor signs COVID-19 proclamation

By Annie Rigby

In response to the many areas surrounding Loris, including Horry County, that have mandated wearing face masks Mayor Todd Harrelson provided a proclamation for the residents and visitors of Loris.

The proclamation for the City of Loris reads as follows. “Whereas, the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) is a respiratory disease that can result in serious illness or death by the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which is a new strain of the coronavirus previously unidentified in humans and which can spread from person to person.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has warned of the high public health threat posed by COVID-19 globally and in the United States. On January 31, 2020 the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHEC) secretary declared a public health emergency in the United States for COVID-10 under Section 291 of the Public Health Service Act.

On Friday, March 13, 2020, the President of the U.S. declared that the COVID-19 in our country which constituted a national emergency, that began on March 1, 2020. Whereas, on March 13, 2020, the Governor of the State of South Carolina issued Executive orders 2020-08, 23, 29, 35, 38 and 40. Governor Henry McMasters subsequently declared a continued State of Emergency (SOE) in Executive orders 2020-15, 23, 29, 29, 35, 38 and 40 with the state experiencing a dramatic increase in the number of identified new COVID cases. As of July 6, 2020 S.C. DHEC is reporting there have been 46,247 confirmed positive cases and 819 confirmed COVID deaths in the state of South Carolina.

If COVID cases continue to increase in the state of South Carolina and in the city of Loris, the demand for medical, pharmaceutical, personal (PPE) and general cleaning supplies may overwhelm sources of supply; the private and public sector workforce may be negatively impacted by absenteeism; and the demand for medical facilities may exceed locally available resources.

Health authorities, including the CDC, the Surgeon General of the U.S. and DHEC have recommended the use of face coverings along with social distancing as a means of preventing the spread of the disease. Most retail business establishments have taken measures to implement social distancing by placing markers six feet apart and/or requiring employees to wear face masks.” The proclamation ends with, “Now Therefore, I, Todd M. Harrelson, Mayor of Loris, do hereby proclaim the use of social distancing and face masks as an instrumental tool in slowing the spread of COVID-19 and request that the citizens and visitors of the City of Loris respect others and do their part.” It is signed by the mayor with his official seal.

Although the proclamation by the mayor does not state the masks are mandatory, the words state it is strongly suggested wearing masks when visiting local businesses to help prevent the spread of the disease.

In Horry County employees are required to wear a face mask. The ordinance states that all customers and employees at retail businesses, including grocery stores, pharmacies and hair salons are required to wear masks. The ordinance will enforceable with citations of $25 to $100 for the first three offenses reported. The entire ordinance may be read at the Horry County official website.

The Horry County Council called an emergency meeting on Friday, July 3, to discuss issuing an ordinance that requires people to wear face masks in certain businesses. A vote 8-4 in favor of the ordinance passed. There are exemptions to the ordinance and includes any person unable to safely wear a face mask due to age or an underlying condition (Asthma); any person who is unable to remove the face mask without assistance; religious beliefs prevent them from wearing a face mask and when law enforcement directs a person to remove the face mask.

Most businesses in Loris do not mandate customers to wear masks; however, some business owners have reported they will require a face covering for customers to enter their establishment. This is a choice to be made by the business owners or management to make. One business owner stated it is better to be safe and stop the spread of the virus.They don’t want to lose customers, but it is better than shutting down again and that safety comes first for the employees and the other customers.

Loris grocery stores Food Lion, Hills and IGA, employees wear face masks and have shields at the checkout stations and have markings on the floor to remind people to social distance. Each store deep cleans each night before closing. Food Lion hours are 7 a.m. to11 p.m. providing customers one door entry and one door exit. Hills Grocery closes at their regular time at 9 p.m. with the employees deep cleaning after hours. IGA has gone a few steps further closing at 9 p.m. for the hour-long cleaning process; during open hours the employees will hear a bell to have them stop their duties and clean their sections including the meat and produce departments. When visiting the many businesses throughout Loris employees are wearing face coverings.

The question is the legality of a mandate that involves forcing the public to wear PPE when visiting public places and enforcing the violations which take valuable resources from the police departments across the county. Many store owners and businesses are not requiring customers in Loris to wear a face covering, but will ask that if a customer has any symptoms related to the COVID virus to please stay home, get tested and quarantine until the results come in.

South Carolina is still under the State of Emergency Order updated in June 2020 for the COVID pandemic.

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