Mercer County Commission strikes down mask mandate

PRINCETON, W.Va. — Mercer County is eliminating its indoor mask mandate.

During a special meeting Friday, the Mercer County Commission voted 2-1 to eliminate the mandate approved by the Mercer County Board of Health.

The health voted earlier this week to extend the mandate another 60 days but a new state law gives county commissions authority to uphold or vote down health board measures.

The mandate, which went into effect last month, required masks indoors regardless of vaccination status.

Mercer County Commissioner Greg Puckett

Commissioner Greg Puckett voted against the mandate’s elimination Friday. He said he couldn’t go against the health board’s decision.

“We’re getting rid of an ordinance that is working at a time that could be critical to our community. It could not only put us to greater risk but at additional liability for removing a potential life-saving opportunity for many,” Puckett said.

The commission took comments from several residents before voting. One parent said her son had health-related issues by covering his face and that the mandate is taking away from individual freedoms.

“I cannot hide my face from my children,” she told commissioners. “Just respect me as a mother.”

Delegate Marty Gearheart (R-Mercer, 27) was among the speakers and said he’s against the mandate because it’s hurting the local economy.

Marty Gearheart

“We’re dividing a community between those that wear it and those that don’t wear it. We’re damaging our businesses,” he said. “I don’t care to try to shop and spend my disposable dollars where I have to be contained and wrapped within a cocoon across my face.”

Gearheart compared wearing a mask to having a “cocoon wrapped across the front of my face.”

Puckett asked for a 30-day extension instead of the Board of Health’s recommended 60 days. His proposal was rejected.

According to the state Department of Health and Human Resources, there were 247 active cases of COVID-19 in Mercer County as of Friday morning. The county is ‘gold’ on the daily alert COVID map.

Earlier this month, the Greenbrier County Commission voted to remove its indoor mask mandate citing a significant decline in active COVID-19 cases.

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