Once again, I'm in a dispute with members of Sumter County Council. This time it concerns the health, safety and welfare of all citizens in our county; most notably, African-Americans and military veterans.
I wrote a letter to the editor on Aug. 6, 2020, expressing my strong feelings on wearing masks to help control the spread of the coronavirus in Sumter County. On July 28, 2020, Sumter County Council passed a "resolution" that only "urged" people to wear a mask. I voted against it because I felt it was insufficient.
State scientific research confirms that masks are one of the most effective tools in halting the spread of the coronavirus. Counties with mask mandates saw a 15 percent decrease in COVID-19 cases. In contrast, counties without a mask mandate saw a 30.4 percent increase. Dr. Linda Bell, S.C. state epidemiologist, said, "This proves what we already knew, wearing face masks works."
The Sumter Item front page on Aug. 13, 2020, stated, "New S.C. virus data show localized racial disparity." Race demographics in Sumter County reveal that Blacks are dying at a disproportionate rate. The county coroner reports 49 deaths. The race and gender are: Black males, 15; Black females, 21; white males, 7; white females, 4; and two other males. The age range of most deaths is 60 to 80. Many Black grandparents will not see their grandchildren graduate from high school. COVID-19 death rate for Blacks is 73 percent.
Conversely, I am greatly concerned about military veterans who served during the Vietnam Era. These veterans, like me, are in their 70s and were infected by an herbicide called Agent Orange. Most have underlying health conditions (heart disease, prostate cancer, Type 2 diabetes, etc.). Thousands live in Sumter County.
My goal is to save lives. Therefore, I introduced a mask mandate ordinance similar to the City of Sumter's ordinance. As noted in The Sumter Item, "Countywide face covering requirement voted down."
Unfortunately, the vote by Sumter County Council will put Blacks and military veterans at a much higher risk of dying from COVID-19.
EUGENE R. BATEN
Sumter County Council
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