Columbia City Council strengthens and extends mask ordinance

Updated: Nov. 5, 2020 at 6:59 PM EST
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Thursday, the Columbia City Council voted to extend the city’s mask ordinance and impose harsher fines for those who violate it.

The unanimously approved ordinance makes three changes:

  • Extends the mask ordinance another 60 days from Nov. 5
  • Strengthens fines from $25 to $100 for individuals who do not comply with the mask ordinance.
  • Adds language to the mask ordinance specifically requiring masks be worn in lines while waiting to get into restaurants or bars.

That language reads:

“A face covering which covers the nose and mouth must also be worn in situations where distances between people change frequently such as a busy sidewalk, waiting area, or popular outdoor area where it is impractical or impossible to maintain six feet of distance at all times.”

At-Large Councilman Howard Duvall motioned to add the phrases specifying that the face coverings must be worn over the face and mouth.

The motion was approved.

Read the full ordinance:

The vote comes after repeated scenes of students and other people crowding sidewalks and parties with limited masks and social distancing.

Meanwhile, the Town of Lexington let its face mask requirement expire on Sunday, Nov. 8.

Mayor Steve MacDougall said the council didn’t have enough votes to pass the mask ordinance for an additional 60 days.

“We strongly encourage everyone to still -- if you cannot socially distance -- to continue to wear a mask when necessary,” MacDougall said.

The mayor also said it may be brought up for another vote if recommended by the Department of Health and Environmental Control.

Thursday, DHEC says cases are rising in South Carolina and officials are concerned about another surge.

Duvall said his motion came after some people claimed they were not in violation of the ordinance, because they were wearing the mask around their neck.

“It’s not too much to ask for people to wear a protective device over their nose and mouth,” he said.

He said the increase in fines was designed to deter students from behavior that could spread the virus.

"The difference between $25 and $100 will get the attention of a lot of people. That is probably more than what they want to call home to momma and daddy, and say, “Look, I need $100′ as compared to the $25 they may be able to absorb on their own.”

Duvall said the council will monitor the percent positive over the coming weeks to weigh its effectiveness, and a dip below 5% would signal the opportunity to loosen the measures.

As of November 5, the percent positive in Richland County is 14%.

Later on Thursday, the city leaders and University of South Carolina leaders held a press conference to promote the new rules.

University of South Carolina Executive Director of Military Programs and Strategies James Smith said the university supports the measure.

He said for now, the university will not strengthen or change its conduct policies.

“What we see happening is working. We’ve been able to aggressively manage the disease and go after testing and our protocols. We’ve shown zero transmission in the classroom and on campus, so the measures are really important,” he said.

When it comes to large gatherings over Halloween weekend, the Columbia Police Department reported to WIS it responded to five addresses.

The gathering sizes ranged from 30 to 60 people, and warnings were given.

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