MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WMBF) – Myrtle Beach City Council has approved a mandate requiring face masks to be worn in certain public places.
The order starts at 11:59 p.m. Thursday, July 2, and will remain in effect for 67 days, which is through Labor Day, or until rescinded, or until the expiration of the declaration of a civil emergency.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS | What to know about Myrtle Beach’s face mask executive order
According to the executive order, individuals would be required to wear the face coverings, defined as a “uniform piece of cloth, fabric, or other material that securely covers a person’s nose and mouth and remains affixed in place without the use of one’s hands,” when inside retail establishments and food service establishments, and the “enclosed common areas” of overnight accommodations establishments.
Retail establishments are listed as businesses like grocery stores, convenience stores, commercial stores, pharmacies, and barbershops and hair salons, among others.
Food service establishments encompass any business that sells prepared food on a dine-in, delivery, carry-out or drive-through basis, according to the order.
Overnight accommodations establishments are hotels, motels, condos, rental properties and private campgrounds.
Staff at those businesses will also be required to wear face masks while working in areas open to the general public and in areas where social distancing among employees cannot be observed.
Myrtle Beach Mayor Brenda Bethune said she understands not everyone might agree with the order but it’s for the greater good of the community.
“Well, the primary reason we voted on this today is our increase in cases. And that took place once our hotels started opening back up and we started seeing a lot of influx of visitors to the area so we have to take action and this is the right step to take,” Bethune said.
She added that with the national attention the city has gotten as many states link cases back to Myrtle Beach vacations, she wants to take every step to slow the spread.
“I hate the perception that people have right now as any city would. And we need to do everything we can. We are a great vacation destination for millions of people and we want our families to come back here. This is about keeping our own community safe but also our visitors because we want them when they go back home to be healthy and safe and not take anything back to their own towns,” Bethune added.
Bethune also said, with the mask ordinance in effect, it did not make sense to host fireworks at the beach for the Fourth of July.
”We don’t want to send mixed signals, and if we are going to say to people, ‘You have to social distance, you have to wear a mask, do not gather in crowds,' it would be very difficult for us to continue to have an event where we are actually not promoting that but allowing it to happen,” she said.
Any person in violation will be guilty of a civil infraction punishable by a penalty of not more than $100. Businesses where staff are repeatedly cited for not wearing masks could be declared public nuisances and have their business license suspended.
Exemptions from the mask requirement include when on the beach, when walking, when doing indoor or outdoor physical activity, in a car, in an unenclosed area or a retail or food service establishment, while actually eating, when working in a private office, within the same household as other family members or when an underlying medical condition precludes wearing a mask.
The decision comes as COVID-19 cases continue to rise across the Grand Strand and throughout the state.
Several cities across the Palmetto State have passed mandates requiring face masks, including North Myrtle Beach and the city of Georgetown.
The staff at Peaches Corner on Ocean Boulevard in Myrtle Beach has already started wearing masks as a part of the new routine.
Now that the city council has passed an ordinance requiring masks in restaurants, they'll be asking the customers to do the same thing.
“I think it will probably make it better,” said Peaches Corner Manager Robert Alston. “If they see us wearing masks, they’ll be happier to come on in.”
Another business on Ocean Boulevard isn’t so sure it will make all the customers that happy.
“At some point there’ll be some people that will question the legality of this,” said Gay Dolphin Owner Justin Plyler. “It’s going to be hard for me to refer to them to the law that makes this possible.”
The Gay Dolphin intends to put a sign on the front door so people know they'll need a mask if they want to shop.
“We’ll do our best,” said Plyler. “We’ll do what the city wants us to do, and I think this will reflect well on Myrtle Beach.”
Read the full emergency ordinance on face masks below: