Pedestrians with masks on Ocean Boulevard

Pedestrians with masks stroll along Ocean Boulevard on Saturday, May 23, 2020. Most beachgoers went without a mask. Photo by Christian Boschult 

In the face of officials in other states warning their residents about visiting Myrtle Beach, Horry County’s Welcome Back Committee voted Thursday to purchase masks for smaller businesses who’ve taken the safety pledge to distribute to their customers.  

So far, Myrtle Beach Chamber CEO Karen Riordan said 170 businesses have made the “Greater Grand Strand business promise” to follow CDC and S.C. DHEC safety guidelines, to wear protective equipment, encourage hand-washing, frequently clean high-touch surfaces, limit their building capacity and promote social distancing. 

Those businesses include many in Barefoot Landing and Broadway at The Beach, and consist of hospitality businesses, restaurants and professional services, Riordan said.

The businesses that have made the promise will get window clingers to let customers know that they’re following guidelines, and in return, the committee will give them positive promotion on social media. 

Riordan said visitors who have come here and gotten sick were not taking precautions like wearing masks and social distancing, adding that it was important for visitors to follow the guidelines also. 

That’s where the masks come in.

“We know many of our businesses have already purchased masks for their employees to wear, and some of them have actually purchased masks and are now handing them out to their customers,” Riordan said. “But many of our smaller businesses do not have the resources to do that.” 

Horry County spokesperson Kelly Moore said the committee would buy 20,000 masks at a cost of $1.25 per mask, using committee funds budgeted by county council.

In addition, Riordan said, many community members are expressing worry about businesses who are refusing to do their part to help slow the spread, and said that may be driving some of the negative sentiment about Myrtle Beach. Travel research has shown that people are more likely to visit locations that are doing a good job of containing the virus. 

Cases of COVID-19 have been spiking in Horry County recently, as many residents and visitors are refusing to follow basic recommendations like wearing a mask in public and practicing social distancing. Without a vaccine or cure, the spread of the virus is completely reliant on the precautions that residents and visitors are taking. 

“The masks are very important right now as a symbol of everyone trying to do their own part individually to slow the spread,” Riordan said. “But we’re also hearing quite a bit at our different chambers of commerce throughout the greater Grand Strand that as residents and visitors go into certain businesses, they’re not seeing any of the guidelines being followed, so they’re not using masks or gloves, they’re not using hand sanitizer, and that’s really upsetting our community.” 

She stressed the importance of getting as many businesses as possible to make the promise, and floated the idea that as businesses took the pledge to follow safety guidelines and then continued to follow through and “walk the walk” could get extra promotion on social media.

“We think it’s very important that our business community gets behind this,” Riordan said. 

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