By Adam Pack
The Greenbrier County Commission met on the morning of Tuesday, Oct. 12 to discuss, among other things, the Greenbrier County Health Department’s mask mandate.
The mandate was issued by the Health Department on Sept. 17, but in accordance with new state laws, the county commission took it up for discussion at their most recent meeting. Commission President Lowell Rose, who acts as the commission’s liaison to the Greenbrier County Health Department, explained the Department’s mandate decision.
“At that time [mid-September], cases in the county were on the rise, up to 403 at the top. As of yesterday [Oct. 11] we have 146 active cases and seven hospitalized.”
That number represents a more than 50 percent decrease in active cases in less than a month, prompting Rose to conclude his opening remark in saying that cases have “come down considerably.” He added that during the Health Department meeting he was a voting member, but abstained from voting on the mandate decision, knowing that the issue would be brought before the commission.
The formal motion to end the mandate was then made by Commissioner Mike McClung, who added that he was “pleased” to make the motion. Commissioner McClung showed an attention to public opinion when he explained the reasoning behind his vote, “Wearing of the masks is hugely unpopular with the people of Greenbrier County, so I would be happy to make that motion to lift the mandate.”
Before moving to a final vote, Commissioner Rose further explained the procedures and addressed some concerns involved in the mask mandate.
“The Health Department was within its rights in declaring the mandate. If there is a health emergency they [the Greenbrier County Health Dept.] can both mandate and put into effect a mask mandate for thirty days. The Commission then has 30 days in which to take up [lift or continue] the mandate. In the case that there is not a health emergency, the [Health] Department makes a request for a mask mandate and the Commission makes the determination as to whether or not that goes into effect.”
This is pursuant to new state laws which aim to bring more accountability and community involvement to public health decisions.
The final vote was a unanimous one to lift the mandate, with Commissioner Tammy Tincher voting via text, thus lifting the mandate immediately. That afternoon, the Commission reaffirmed the right of any individual to wear a mask if they so choose through a social media post:
“We continue to encourage everyone to wear their masks in indoor settings and in large groups in addition to social distancing as we know this does have a direct impact on limiting the spread of this virus,” reads the post. “We respectfully ask that everyone continue to do your part in keeping our families safe and our communities healthy as our healthcare community continues to feel the strain from this pandemic and this most recent surge. Remember, we are also entering into flu season, and masking helps prevent the spread of this virus as well. Please contact your local provider for the COVID-19 and flu vaccine. We are stronger together.”
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