Clinton City Council has turned down an ordinance mandating that people wear masks in grocery stores and pharmacies, and putting teeth into enforcement.

The ordinance failed on a 3-3 vote tonight; it takes a 2/3 positive vote to pass an ordinance. Masks are a way that health officials have said the Coronavirus, and the illness it causes, COVID-19, can be slowed down; more than 11 Million people worldwide have been or are now infected with the virus/illness.

Council Member Shirley Jenkins asked if there have been city employees infected by the Coronavirus. Assistant City Manager Thomas Higgs said he would not speak to that, as it involves the employees’ personal health information.

“The Surgeon General opposes mandatory masks,” council member Ronnie Roth said.

Instead of an ordinance, which could have given the police the ability to write tickets and fine non-compliers, the Council passed a resolution encouraging Clinton residents to wear masks while shopping and being in public around people. It is similar to a resolution passed by Laurens City Council.

“I have gotten numerous calls from people saying they do not feel safe shopping in our town. They said they will go to other areas,” said council member Megan Walsh, who introduced the proposed, and failed, ordinance.

On Memorial Day weekend (May 25), the Clinton zip code had 14 COVID-19 confirmed cases.

On Fourth of July weekend (July 6), the Clinton zip code has 256 COVID-19 confirmed cases.

Laurens County has the highest COVID-19 number of any county in The Lakelands.

Mayor Bob McLean said if there is “an outbreak” of COVID-19, the council could revisit the ordinance. He suggested putting a wear-masks message on billboards in the city, and having a city-sponsored educational campaign. During June, District 56 had an in-person graduation at Wilder Stadium on June 4, and the City of Clinton/Main St. Clinton held a mass-gathering concert on June 20.

McLean said it would be helpful if the city had a day by day chart showing the rise and fall of Clinton COVID-19 cases.

In South Carolina, more than 800 people have died with COVID-19, a severe respiratory illness; at least 2 people who lived in Clinton have died with the illness, social media posts have indicated. Just over 20% of the COVID-19 confirmed cases in South Carolina are in people who are in the 21 - 30 age range (22% per SC DHEC’s July 6th report).

The Clinton City Council also passed a resolution in support of police, and conducted an executive session related to 3 matters (property and personnel). The Clinton City Council meets on the 1st Monday of each month.

NOTE: On the COVID-19 masks requirement ordinance, council members Megan Walsh, Shirley Jenkins and Danny Cook voted “yes;” Mayor Bob McLean and council members Ronnie Roth and Gary Kuykendall voted “no;” council member Robbie Neal was absent. The resolution to encourage masks-wearing passed on a unanimous, 6-0 vote, at the July 6 meeting.