BEAUFORT COUNTY, S.C. (WSAV) – Beaufort County’s mask mandate will end later this week.

On Monday, Beaufort County Council fell one vote short of renewing the emergency ordinance for businesses and county buildings, which has been in place since July 3, 2020.

“People are not looking at this from a public health perspective. We are looking at it from a personal perspective,” said Joe Passiment, council chairman. “We as county leaders should be beyond that, and I’m sorry, but we weren’t.”

“We had over 90 people write in to the office, whether it was common citizens, or emails to our county council members, in 72 hours,” explained Councilman Logan Cunningham, who voted against continuing the ordinance. “Once they found out it was on the agenda, the county was flooded with emails. And only three of those 90 were to extend.”

This means beginning Friday, April 16 — the first business day after the current emergency ordinance expires — face coverings will no longer be required in unincorporated Beaufort County.

“We have a fourth wave now, and that’s young people,” Passiment continued. “With this new UK variant that’s out there affecting this population. And we chose not to move forward. It was interesting that all the people that spoke before us were from municipalities that have a mask ordinance.”

“Do I think it was the most clear process? No, I don’t,” said Cunningham. “But I think we needed to take a stepping stone. I think Beaufort County was bold enough to make sure we could take the leadership on this. And I know two of our mayors were there last night, and I hope they will take the next step so we can be on the same page.”

There are still mask mandates in effect in the town of Hilton Head, Bluffton, Beaufort, Port Royal and Yemassee.