Columbia’s mask ordinance goes into effect Friday morning; here are answers to FAQs

The ordinance requiring people to wear face coverings in Columbia takes effect Friday, June 26 at 6 a.m.
Updated: Jun. 26, 2020 at 12:09 AM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Thursday, Columbia's City Manager shared new details with WIS on how the city's mask ordinance will be enforced.

City Manager Teresa Wilson said employees who traditionally interact with the public, not police officers, will be responsible for enforcing the city's mask ordinance.

The City Council passed the ordinance on June 23. It requires masks for customers and workers in commercial businesses, with some health and situational exceptions.

It takes effect Friday, June 26 at 6 a.m.

Wilson said the fines in question are civil issues, not criminal. As a result, the Columbia Police Department will not be responsible for enforcing them.

She said the responsibility falls with her office, and she is working with city employees to roll out a "friendly" and "soft" enforcement.

She said the following groups of employees will be acting on the ordinance:

  • Parking enforcement
  • Fire Marshals
  • Parks and Recreation staff
  • Code enforcement staff

In addition to issuing tickets, she said the employees will be responsible for offering reminders, sharing information about the ordinance, and running distribution sites where masks will be handed out.

She said city employees do not have the authority to make anyone wear a mask.

Wilson said fines will be a "last resort," and will likely come after warnings.

“If the fire marshal...(gets) complaints of citizens or customers or patrons that a business is just not adhering to prior warnings, I think then yes, fines will be issued,” she said.

She said staff will not be changing their daily routines to do inspections for mask enforcement, but "it will be a new thing that they're looking for."

She said the city is still working on what the tickets would look like and how fines will be processed.

As a result, she said the number of fines administered in the first week of the ordinance will likely be low.

“My hope would be that if we get to that point, hopefully those fines would go back into some type of pot of funds to be donated back to the COVID-19 effort or something of that nature,” she said. ”This is not a revenue generating effort in any way.”

She said if someone were to receive a fine, that any appeal would need to go through the city manager's office.

If you interact with the public while at work, a face covering is required. If you do not interact with the public while at work, physical distancing of at least six feet is recommended with your co-workers but you do not need to wear a face covering.

She said when the ordinance references “commercial establishments,” it includes government, professional offices and retail businesses, with the exception of hotels.

She said people in these businesses should be wearing masks unless they are in an enclosed space, such as their office.

Wilson said the public can reach out to her office or go to the Resilient Columbia website, as more information on the ordinance will be published there.

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