Below is the email that Self Regional Healthcare President and CEO, Jim Pfeiffer, sent to Greenwood County Council earlier today.
Dear County Council Members,
We were profoundly disappointed in Greenwood County Council’s failure to pass a mask ordinance at Tuesday evening’s special session. Though the City’s mask mandate (that was passed last week and went into effect Monday, July 13) has the potential to help reduce community spread of COVID-19, it is our opinion at Self Regional that without a corresponding mandate for the non-incorporated parts of Greenwood, the City’s effort is severely weakened. The City’s ordinance requires all staff and customers to wear face coverings while inside any business in the Greenwood city limits. Our citizens need this same protection in the county as well, and given that the border between county and city is often unclear, County Council’s failure to pass a similar mandate is bound to create confusion and noncompliance. Tuesday evening, County Council missed a very important opportunity to turn the tide of this pandemic’s impact on our community and the lives of our citizens.
I’m very thankful to Dr. Matt Logan, Dr. Cecily Hughes, Dr. Daphne Karel and Stephen Shenal from our clinical staff who joined me in addressing Council in support of the ordinance. We relayed to you what is the overwhelming consensus of the medical community in South Carolina and across the nation: universal mask usage works, and communities that enact mandatory mask ordinances see a rapid reduction of COVID-19 infections. We stressed the fact that the Self Regional ICU is full, that we have 50+ COVID inpatients, that we’ve had 11 COVID deaths, and that these rapidly increasing numbers have the potential to overwhelm our hospital and jeopardize our ability to meet the healthcare needs of the people in our community. We stressed the fact that it’s abundantly clear that large portions of the Greenwood population are unwilling to voluntarily wear a mask and that in South Carolina more than 20% of those being tested are found to be positive – indicating that a very large number of our population is infected; many will become sick and fill hospitals around our state, and many will die. Apparently, these stark facts were not enough to move a majority of this Council to pass a mandate. We are grateful to Chairman Steve Brown, Edith Childs, and Chuck Moates for voting in favor of the mandate, but want the rest of Council who voted against the ordinance to hear from your local hospital in no uncertain terms: a non-binding resolution that merely encourages mask-wearing, but doesn’t require it, is not the strong action the people of Greenwood need at this time.
Just before voting against the mandate, Council members Mark Allison, Robbie Templeton and Theo Lane spoke at great length about their personal views on the matter. Each expressed their trust in Greenwood’s medical community and their confidence that the alarm we were sounding is valid. Each affirmed that the CDC and DHEC guidance for universal mask wearing is appropriate and that our citizens SHOULD be wearing masks in public to slow the spread of COVID-19. Each affirmed their personal commitment to mask wearing in order to protect the most vulnerable among us. And yet, each justified their vote against the mask mandate by saying they were simply following the legal guidance of Elizabeth Taylor, our County Attorney. They gave no specifics about this legal guidance during the council session. The other curious theme that Mr. Allison, Mr. Templeton and Mr. Lane all stressed repeatedly, and held in common, was their baseless confidence that if we “ask, and in fact beg” the citizens of Greenwood to wear masks (instead of enacting an ordinance requiring it) we stand a better chance of achieving widespread compliance. Mr. Templeton even mentioned the aggressive leadership role County Council should play in a campaign to promote mask wearing.
On behalf of the 2,800 Self Regional team members, physicians, nurses and other clinicians who put their lives on the line every day to fight this pandemic, who risk infection and who are working with scarce supplies under extraordinary conditions, I’d like to ask County Council members for more detail about the leadership role they intend to play in convincing Greenwood citizens to wear masks, practice social distancing and reduce the rampant community spread of COVID-19. We would like to know specifically what actions Mark Allison, Robbie Templeton and Theo Lane will be taking, what county resources will be allocated, what media will be leveraged, and what corporate efforts County Council members will be organizing. The situation is dire and you must let us—and the citizens of Greenwood County—know immediately what you are going to do to help stem the tide of this pandemic.
James A. Pfeiffer
Self Regional Healthcare
President and CEO