Greenbrier County no longer has a mask mandate to protect against COVID-19.
During the Tuesday, October 12, meeting of the Greenbrier County Commission, a unanimous vote ended the mandate approximately a month after it was issued.
After the vote, the Greenbrier County Health Department issued a statement to social media.
“This is effective immediately. Greenbrier County is currently orange on the state color map and while we are seeing less cases being reported daily our infection rate and spread are still high. We continue to encourage everyone to wear their masks in indoor settings and in large groups, in addition to social distancing. [We] know this does have a direct impact on limiting the spread of this virus. 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 us or your local provider for the COVID-19 and flu vaccine. We are stronger together.”
Commission President Lowell Rose also sits on the Greenbrier County Health Department board, where he declined to vote on the mandate before it was issued.
“Of course I’m on that board, but I abstained from voting at that time because I knew I’d be voting on it at the commission,” Rose said. “At that time, we were on the rise for COVID cases in the county. We got up to 403, I think, was the top of the spike. As of yesterday, we got the numbers … we have 146 active and seven hospitalized. So it’s come down considerably. The spike in cases was expected to be between the 25th and the 28th [of September], something like that, and a little after that.”
Commissioner Mike McClung agreed.
“I would be pleased to make that motion,” said McClung. “There’s a lot of information, a lot of conflicting information, probably some misinformation about an awful lot of things with all the issues that we’ve gone through. It seems to me that gatherings that I’ve been to that the wearing of the mask is hugely unpopular with the people of Greenbrier County, so I would be happy to make that motion to lift that mandate.”
The decision was unanimous, with affirmative votes from each commissioner. Although Commissioner Tammy Shifflett-Tincher was not present in person, traveling to a national county commissioner’s gathering and outside of cell service range, she texted Commission Assistant Kelly Banton to vote in favor of ending the mandate.
After the vote, Commission President Lowell Rose explained that the mandate was within the Health Department’s power to issue.
“The health department was within their rights to do the mandate,” Rose said. “I’ve heard a lot of discussion about that. If it’s a health emergency within the county … they can do the mandate and put it into effect and we have 30 days. If it’s not done as a health emergency, they make the request and it comes to the county commission, … then the commission makes the decision on if it goes into effect or not. … We knew it was going to spike and come back down within that time period. I’m sure the mask mandate didn’t hurt, as far as numbers, but we have no way of tracking that.”
The repeal comes just on the heels of the United States losing 700,000 citizen lives to COVID-19 and the Delta variant and shortly before West VIrginia anticipates reaching the grim milestone of 4,000 in-state deaths, a far cry from the initially estimated death toll, under 100.