Public turns out for Mercer County meeting on mask mandate

PRINCETON, WV (WOAY) – The Mercer County Commission met in an emergency session this Friday to discuss and vote on extending the county’s mask mandate.

Earlier this week, the Mercer County Board of Health held a public forum to discuss extending the county’s mask mandate. No one from the public showed up to that meeting, and the board of health voted 3-2 to extend the mandate by 60 days. 

The final decision to extend the mandate then falls on the county commission. 

During an emergency session, all commissioners spoke on the mandate. Gene Buckner, the commission president, shared remarks being against the mandate. He stated that the Board of Health did not follow the correct steps to impose a mandate, and therefore he is against extending it.

“The information posted on their website stated they recommended that our county wear masks,” Buckner said. “It was not a mandate, which means there was never a mandate. Therefore it is my opinion that we as a commission, can not and should not continue this act by the health department.”

Members of the public attended the meeting, most being strongly against the mask mandate. One claimed to be a nurse and stated that masks did nothing. Another made remarks that mandates are anti freedom.

One person stated they value the choice to wear a mask. They even said they choose not to wear a seatbelt because it’s their choice, and they also refuse to wear a mask. 

Other speakers were parents who were concerned for their children and how they were against wearing masks in schools. 

After hearing from multiple people, the commission voted 2-1 to cancel the mask mandate. Commissioners Gene Buckner and Bill Archer voted to cancel it, and Commissioner Greg Puckett voted against the cancellation.

“I think we should continue the mask recommendations, and help provide additional resources to help us all be a part of the solution,” Puckett said. Getting rid of an ordinance that is working at a time that could be critical to our community could not only put us at greater risk, but an additional liability for removing an additional life saving opportunity for many.” 

Puckett added that the county lacks the ability enforce a mask mandate, creating further issues.

The mask mandate would have been extended 60 days, until December, if it had passed in the commission meeting. Instead, it ends on Friday, October 22.

Members of the board of health also attended the meeting, explaining that they believe masks would slow the spread of COVID-19 as more people head inside for social gatherings during the upcoming winter.

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