COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - As the holidays draw near and many students and families are getting ready to travel to and from Columbia, City Council discussed ways to curb the rising number of COVID-19 cases in the city.
Many council members voiced alarm at the social distancing and mask-wearing of citizens and called on residents to fight COVID fatigue and stay vigilant.
“I think we’ve all seen enough data and news to understand just how deadly the threat is facing our families,” Mayor Steve Benjamin said, “We just need folks to step up.”
City officials said that their latest reports from DHEC found that disease spread in Richland County remains high, with 79 new cases in the county on Monday and a 13% positive rate. It’s something that’s caused concern for many members of the council.
“Three times in the last week I’ve been in a big box store that had nobody monitoring entrance and nobody stopping people with no masks on,” District 4 Councilman Daniel Richenmann said.
Officials reported the 29201 zip code, which includes the Five Points area, is seeing the highest number of cases.
“I went through the five points area yesterday and it was terrible, literally terrible,” District 2 Councilman Edward McDowell Jr. said.
“We feel like the weak spot in our pandemic response has been from the young adults going over to Five Points,” At-large Councilman Howard Duvall said.
Duvall said the city has issued over forty $100 fines to those not wearing masks. That fine was increased from $25 to $100 earlier this month.
“We’re trying to convince them this is their responsibility,” Duvall said. “They need to help us with this pandemic.”
Further, with the holidays coming up, Council urged citizens against large family gatherings.
“We have got to be vigilant,” Benjamin said. “Vigilance will save lives, and that’s always been the one true north of this council.”
The face mask ordinance that includes a $100 fine for those in violation will expire on January 5 unless it is extended. Duvall said it will give the council a chance to see how the city is doing after the holidays before deciding whether to extend the ordinance.