Yesterday, the City of Beaufort adopted an emergency ordinance requiring that everyone wear a face covering inside publicly accessible buildings to help control the spread of COVID-19. The mandate is enforceable with a $50 fine.

Not surprisingly, public response has ranged from applause to anger. Those opposed to the mask mandate often cite American principles of self-determination and liberty as their rationale.

Liberty has held a special place in the hearts of South Carolinians since the word was emblazoned on the flag flown by Moultrie at Sullivan’s Island during the American Revolution. And nothing gets my old debate team juices flowing like discussing the social contract, free will, and authority based on consent of the governed. 

But to evaluate this mask mandate, I am setting aside the philosophical and focusing on the practical. All practical considerations point to mask wearing.

Many businesses are still recovering from the shut down this spring. Failing to slow the spread locally could have serious consequences for employers and the whole community. Mask wearing is a cheap and easy (albeit annoying) thing most everyone can do to help curb spread. The City’s ordinance compels a behavior all responsible citizens should embrace.

This Independence Day, celebrate liberty! But when you are out, mask up! It just makes practical sense.