CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - The City of Charleston has passed a resolution requiring people to wear masks when in public places to reduce the risk of exposure to COVID-19.
Anyone found violating the ordinance will get a warning first, then fined $50. The ordinance will go into effect on midnight on July 1 and remain in effect for 60 days, unless otherwise terminated.
People in the city will have to wear a mask in restaurants, retail stores, and public spaces which include curbside pickup, delivery, and service calls (a full list of places and exemptions are found further below in this story).
Mayor John Tecklenburg said the city will also be working with businesses and giving them signs to put up which would contain information on wearing masks and the reason to wear one.
During Thursday night’s meeting, council members heard from a doctor who said the worst is yet to come, and suggested moving forward with the ordinance.
“Indoor mask wearing and limiting the size of crowds particularly in bars is I think going to be your low hanging fruit,” said Dr. Robert T. Ball Jr.
Councilmembers had also been talking to their constituents and putting up surveys regarding the ordinance. While some people are not fond of the idea of wearing masks, council members say a lot of them were in favor of doing this.
“There’s a broad consensus that masks work and masks are the easiest thing we can do this time to help curb this spread,” Councilmember Ross Appel said during the meeting.
All but one councilmember voted in support of the ordinance. Councilmember Harry Griffin wanted more answers from the city about what happened the night of May 30 when riots broke out on King Street.
“I’m not going to put any more regulations on our citizens until we get some answers on what happened that night,” Griffin said.
The ordinance states that the use of a face mask is required for every person within the city for the following conditions:
- All restaurants and retail stores that include but are not limited to salons, barber shops, grocery stores, pharmacies, or other building open to the public.
- While interacting with people in outdoor spaces including but not limited to curbside pickup, delivery, and service calls.
- While providing public or commercial transportation including tours.
- While walking in public where maintaining a six foot distance between people is not possible
- When participating in a permitted or allowable gathering
Those exempt from wearing a mask include the following:
- Any person who is unable to safely wear a face covering due to age, an underlying health condition, or is unable to remove the face covering without the assistance of others;
- Any person traveling in their personal vehicles;
- When a person is alone or only with other household members in an enclosed space;
- While participating in an outdoor physical activity, provided the active person maintains a minimum of six (6) feet from other people at all times;
- While actively drinking, eating or smoking;
- In an outdoor or unenclosed area appurtenant to retail establishments or foodservice establishments in which social distancing of at least six feet is possible and observed;
- For people whose religious beliefs prevent them from wearing a face covering;
- For children under 10 years old, provided that adults accompanying children ages two through 10 shall use reasonable efforts to cause those children to wear face coverings while inside the enclosed area of any retail establishment or foodservice establishment;
- In private, individual offices;
- When complying with directions of law enforcement officers;
- In settings where it is not feasible to wear a face covering, including when obtaining or rendering goods or services such as the receipt of dental services or while swimming; and,
- Police officers, fire fighters and other first responders when not practical or engaged in a public safety matter of an emergency nature.
The mayor said the goal of the ordinance is to educate and not have to use enforcement.
“We want to support businesses we want to keep them open, we want them to be successful,” Tecklenburg said. “And if this virus continues to grow like it’s growing right now and impacts our healthcare delivery system, there will be another day in consideration for business closures and we don’t want that to happen.”
Councilman Peter Shahid agreed with the mayor’s sentiments regarding the city wanting to keep restaurants and businesses open.
“This is going to help all of us,” Shahid said. “To maybe slow this curve down and get us back down to that zero net gain.”
The latest numbers released by state health officials on Thursday reported 1,106 new cases of COVID-19 and 8 more deaths in South Carolina.
Charleston County reported 208 new cases.
Dr. Linda Bell with the Department of Health and Environmental Control said with the new increase in cases reported this week, South Carolina is at a “critical junction.” There was a record high number of positive cases reported on Wednesday with 1,291 cases.
Bell said it was also a “disturbing fact” that South Carolinians traveling to New York, New Jersey and Connecticut are now required to quarantine for 14 days.