‘Things are different’: Bluffton mayor stands by decision to end mask mandate


BLUFFTON, S.C. (WSAV) – A mandatory mask ordinance in the town of Bluffton expired this week.

Mayor Lisa Sulka was one of four who voted against renewing the requirement.

“I didn’t feel bad about my vote on Tuesday,” she said, adding, “Three months ago, I wouldn’t have changed my vote. Today, things are different, data is different.”

State data shows 75% of people 65 and older are getting vaccinated, and younger individuals are stepping up for their dose as well.

“At this rate we are just rolling the dice,” explained Bluffton Councilman Fred Hamilton.

“We are not at a place where we need to relax,” said Mayor Pro-Tem Fred Hamilton. who called himself the “Lone Ranger” after the council meeting. The only councilperson to vote to continue a mask mandate in town.

“Things are getting better but that, I think, is because we are taking some precautionary measures,” Hamilton said.

“My conscience tells me I would rather be safe than sorry. I would hate to see anyone get sick. If I save one person’s life or save one person from getting infected then my sacrifice of wearing a mask is worth it.”

Sulka says Beaufort County’s decision to end its mask mandate also played into her decision.

“It’s not what half the people wanted,” she said.

Walmart, Sam’s Club, and the Tanger Outlets are all technically part of the unincorporated county and directly next to many Bluffton businesses.

“My father died of COVID. This is important to me,” Sulka continued. “I appreciate mayor pro-tem for taking his stance, and out of respect, when I go in, I’m going to wear my mask.”

“Could you have changed anybody’s mind?” News 3 asked Hamilton.
“No I couldn’t have changed anybody’s mind and honestly I didn’t try,” he said.

Face coverings are still required inside all Beaufort County courthouses, in the city of Port Royal and on Hilton Head Island. And businesses still have the right to ask anyone to wear a mask on their property.

Both Sulka and Hamilton say the Town will decide what happens next. They each recommend respecting a business’s right to ask you to wear a mask. And make your own decision on what you feel is best for your own health.

“Continue to protect yourself wear a mask and continue to be as safe as you possibly can,” said Hamilton. “Don’t let your guards down now, it’s too early to think we are out of the woods.”

“We can always go back if we see data is going backward,” the mayor said. “And I will admit we made a mistake.”

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