COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - As COVID-19 cases continue to rise, the Columbia Fire Department is cracking down on mask enforcement.
Crowds of people were seen without masks outside of bars on Friday afternoon.
“I guess they wanted to get there early enough to just have a good time as long as they can,” Columbia Fire Chief Aubrey Jenkins said.
On Friday, Jenkins made his way down to Five Points to remind maskless patrons that the city’s emergency mask ordinance is still in effect during the city’s “Zero Tolerance” weekend.
“For the last six or seven months or however long this pandemic has been going on, we’ve been reminding people [to wear their masks],” said Jenkins, “and it’s a constant thing to keep talking about it over and over and over again, but this weekend, we’re taking a no-tolerance weekend and I’m letting the students know there’s no tolerance because we don’t want to write them tickets. We want them to conform.”
Although Jenkins could not provide a number of citations that were written on Friday, he said most people who have received citations have been from out of state, but he added that is not an excuse to adhere to the ordinance that is in place.
“We’ve been singing the same song and dance every since the ordinance has been out there,” Jenkins said.
Jenkins also noted that the ordinance is still in effect even if you’re inside a bar, patrons should still be wearing masks to protect themselves and others.
“I think that lies the problem right there,” Jenkins said. “You’re inside and people are inside drinking and they have a drink in their hand. So, if they’re drinking, obviously, they can drink and we don’t write them a citation. But people have to understand just because you have a drink in your hand, that does not mean you can’t pass on the virus to somebody else. I think that is the issue right there that I see.
Under the city’s emergency mask ordinance, anyone who is cited for violating it could be fined up to $100.
“You’ve got to keep in mind we’re still in a pandemic,” Jenkins said, “and the numbers are not getting better. They’re getting worse. So, we’ve still got a duty to make sure we’re protecting people even when people don’t want to protect themselves.”
Jenkins is reminding everyone to practice social distancing and other safety protocols.