“Personal responsibility is going to have to take place at this point and time.” That was the explanation of Beaufort Commissioner Sharon Harker Monday evening as the town council voted unanimously, rescinding a town ordinance that required the wearing of face masks in all public buildings, to include private businesses that cater to the public. We applaud this decision but at the same time wonder if government is testing the waters to see just how far it can go in controlling the public before there is pushback.

In late August the Beaufort commissioners, concerned with the increased numbers of Covid-19 cases reported by the county’s health department, unanimously passed the mask ordinance without seeking public input or surveying local businesses.

Ms. Harker, a licensed respiratory therapist, expressed support for the ordinance on the apparent understanding that it is the board’s prerogative to determine the actions of private businesses and individuals. “We do have some things in our toolbox that we can use to mitigate the spread (of the virus) and I think it’s responsible for us to look at this. Wearing a mask is one of them, vaccine is another,” she stated in that August meeting.

Ms. Harker and her fellow commissioners failed to consider that the public needs to be on board when it comes to decisions and directives that fall to personal responsibility, such as what to wear or eat. But the implication that enforced vaccination can be dictated by the town commissioners is alarming.

The failed mask policy was compounded not only by a lack of sales effort to bring business owners and the public on board, but also by a lack of conformity within the county. The town board’s unilateral decision was not considered by any other municipality in the county, leaving Beaufort the only town with public restrictions. Considering the discomfort that some shoppers have with face masks, let alone the dictates of government about personal decisions, this ordinance may have turned some shoppers away, hurting both business and town revenues and also creating a negative image for the town.

The heavy handed restrictions caused one visitor to write a letter to the editor explaining that when she and her husband recently visited the town they chose not to enter a retail establishment because of a sign noting “Town Ordinance- Mask Required.”

The fact that other Carteret County towns did not restrict visitation by public ordinance meant that visitors and shoppers had shopping alternatives. Those businesses in the other towns may have requested that shoppers wear masks as is their prerogative, but it is not by government dictate, which is the crux of the problem.

Accusing the town board of “overreaching into my freedom”, the letter writer offered an alternative, noting that she and her husband would have been less threatened by this overreach if the town had required a warning be posted outside of businesses about the impacts of the virus and encouraged mask wearing inside of buildings. “A warning is acceptable- again I am an adult and fully able to make a decision,” the writer explained.

She and her husband did make an adult decision. They chose not to shop in Beaufort but decided on visiting similar stores in other towns in the county.

Now that town businesses and the public have apparently ignored the board’s questionable mask dictate, the five commissioners have likewise made an adult decision and voted unanimously to rescind the ordinance.

Unlike the county school board, which is responsible for and is in control of the facilities attended by public school students and therefore can dictate certain actions such as mask wearing, government agencies are severely limited over what they can dictate to the public on private property. If local governments want to create controls, they are ultimately dependent on the buy-in by those governed for those controls to work.

During the town’s board meeting Commissioner Ann Carter observed that the town was “not getting a great deal of cooperation.” The result, as News-Times reporter Jackie Starkey writes, was a unanimous decision to leave the choice to individuals, where it always belonged.

It’s unfortunate that the board took over a month to understand that their authority and public control is limited. More importantly, they established a scenario that resulted in a dismissal of an ordinance in an off-handed or contemptuous fashion; business owners and the public just ignored the ordinance.

The failed dictates of the mask ordinance undermined the public’s confidence and faith in the board. But it also raises the specter that this board and other governing boards may take it upon themselves to dictate personal decision making in the future. The fact that a board member proposes that vaccination is in a government’s “toolbox” to be used at the discretion of the governing body is ominous. Those are decisions that should be made by the individual, not government.

(14) comments

Sandman

The town commissioners finally realized that they were not going to control those who feel that they have a right to make their decisions on their own. To bad that the current administration who runs this country won’t feel this way and listen to the people. All they want to do is negotiate with terrorist organizations, flood this country with unvetted immigrants, allow federal entities to know your financial spending and the list goes on forever and if the IRS is going to snoop in the people’s banking activity, the government leaders and their families should also be included not just the citizens . You can’t force anybody to obey stupid rules and make them feel oppressed. Let the people decide whether or not to wear a mask or get vaccinated. If they want to risk their health and lives let them take that risk. Those who want to get vaccinated and wear a mask, that is their choice. Stop this moronic Socialist/Communist style leadership and run this county like it was intended to be.

quicksand

Just continues to amaze me that the good editor will print these letters-mixing politics/health measures. Not sure why the IRS is mentioned here, nor immigration, nor any other nonsense the “free dumb” alliance supports. In the meantime, the good editor has shut down any comments pertaining to ACTUAL COVID DEATHS. We hear you loud and clear-freedom of the press belongs ONLY to those who own the press. So y’all can stop complaining about censorship elsewhere….

drewski

The problem with leaving public health decisions to the individual, is that quite frankly many individuals are just not too bright. Swayed by misinformation, political affiliation, and media sources they make horrible decisions. That affect not only themselves, but their family,friends, and the general population. With the local vac rate at roughly 60%, it does not take a rocket scientist to see we would be still dealing with small pox,polio, and a host of other preventable diseases if John q public was making public health decisions.

mpjeep

Kinda agree drew, but the Covid vaccine doesn't prevent the disease.

David Collins

Of course , the upcoming election did not enter into the decision making process a bit . Nope , not even a smidgen .

RunAmock

I think it's important to also point out that the previous letter to the editor was written by an employee of a political think tank based out of Raleigh.

The political theater surrounding all of this is nauseating and deserving of Oscars from the political pawns.

drewski

Vaccines do not provide immunity from disease, they prepare your body to fight disease. That immunity wanes over time.

I had the real flu once, I never want that again. I get a flu shot every year, I might get the flu after the shot but it will be much less brutal then without the shot.

720k dead from covid in this country, it is mind boggling to me that near half the population has not been vaccinated.

Realcc

This “personal choice” narrative has to stop. The same people preaching “personal choice” are the first ones thumping their bible trying to tell women what they can and can’t do with their bodies. They tell you it’s disrespectful to kneel during a song. I can go on and on but everyone knows they are Hippocrates. The bottom line is they don’t really care about personal choice.

noitall

It now appears, and is supported by science, that contracting the virus and surviving is a sensible approach to immunity. maybe better than the government can do. And for the record, I don't really care about what anyone does with their bodies - just don' send me the b ill.

David Collins

You might be surprised to know how many folks here in the US are not vaccinated against polio , small pox , or much of anything else and there is nothing being done about it . Not going to be doing anything either .

drewski

The last wild case of small pox in the world was in 1977. A worldwide vaccination program that was a major public health success. I don't doubt there are unvaccinated folks here for one disease or another. The eradication of small pox should provide insight into how to deal with covid, but sadly it hasent worked out that way in this country for sure.

David Collins

Heck , obviously there just are not enough folks dying from Covid to motivate vaccinations . Perhaps the next strain will change that .

Sleepwalker

I know everyone is a doctor/research scientist these days and their research is the only side that has any credence…but…I hope everyone realizes that most of us are refined to whatever we can find on the internet and human nature being what it is…look past the dissenting info and quote the info that agrees with your personal opinion as gospel. The government and media sure isn’t going to put out all the “facts”.

noitall

Is there some covenant of political whim that protects the board from being prosecuted for failing uphold the oath of office - constitutional obedience?

The fact that a board member proposes that vaccination is in a government’s “toolbox” to be used at the discretion of the governing body is ominous. Those are decisions that should be made by the individual, not government. I am fully vaccinated.

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