Columbia City Council passes ordinance requiring citizens to wear face masks, face coverings in commercial facilities

Updated: Jun. 23, 2020 at 6:41 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - The Columbia City Council has passed an ordinance requiring citizens within the city limits to wear a face mask or covering in public.

The ordinance passed 6-1 shortly after the council returned from executive session. During that time, the ordinance was amended to allow certain exceptions.

“This is not a perfect solution,” said Mayor Steve Benjamin. “It’s a move and a thoughtful step in the right direction that continues to guide us towards our true north. Our true north is simply the preservation of human life, to do what we can as quickly as we can, as much as we can, to help us get out of this public health emergency and back to some sense of normalcy where we can continue to engage and congregate and, obviously, see our economy recover.”

The lone vote against passing the ordinance came from Daniel Rickenmann, who wanted to see the council take a different approach.

“I was looking for more of a campaign to promote wearing masks utilizing city staff and other partners to promote through a sense of hometown pride rather than through a stick... With neighboring cities and counties not doing it, it doesn’t stop the spread, it only hurts our small [businesses].”

With this ordinance, citizens must wear face coverings inside commercial facilities within city limits.

“The rise in cases over the last two weeks in very disturbing,” said Councilwoman Tameika Issac Devine. “We have tried to educate and encourage the use of face coverings, but there is still a large number of people not wearing masks so we had to take stronger action. Our goal is to encourage compliance and stress how imperative it is for everyone to wear a mask to slow the spread. "

However, the ordinance does not apply to those who are participating in church services or religious events. Instead, the council recommended face masks be used in those situations.

Also, the ordinance does not apply to anyone receiving a personal service, according to Mayor Steve Benjamin.

Anyone who is not able to safely wear a face covering due to age, an underlying health condition, or the inability to remove the face covering without help is also exempt from the ordinance.

Face coverings are also not required under the following circumstances:

  • Inside personal vehicles
  • Alone in enclosed spaces, during outdoor physical activity (provided the active person maintains a minimum of six feet from other people)
  • While at home alone or with family members
  • While eating, drinking, or smoking
  • When wearing a face covering causes or aggravates a health condition
  • When a person is 10 years of age or younger

Officials said citizens will be fined a maximum of $25 for not wearing a mask in commercial establishments. Citizens will be fined a maximum of $100 for not complying wearing a mask while working in restaurants, retail stores, salons, grocery stores, or pharmacies.

The ordinance will go into effect at 6 a.m. on June 26.

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