Columbia City Council extends mask ordinance amid student return, vows to strengthen it

Updated: Feb. 2, 2021 at 7:47 PM EST
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - The students are back in Columbia, and so are the consequences.

Tuesday, the Columbia City Council extended its mask ordinance until April 4 and planned to consider strengthening its measures in future meetings. Mayor Steve Benjamin said the language of the strengthened measures is to be determined, but the council will work with city staff on the issue.

At-large Councilmember Tameika Isaac Devine said the council discussed graduating penalties for repeat offenders. Currently, a citation for the mask ordinance could carry a fine of $100.

The regularly scheduled extension came after four hours of executive session where council members discussed the ordinance and other matters with the city’s legal representation.

Monday was the first council meeting since long lines outside of bars drew criticism and more than 100 citations the weekend of January 23.

The Columbia-Richland Fire Department spokesperson told WIS 134 citations have been written since classes began on Jan 11.

The department issued:

  • 10 citations the weekend of Jan. 16
  • 106 citations the weekend of Jan. 23
  • 18 citations the weekend of Jan. 30

The ordinance states in part:

“...Face coverings which cover the nose and mouth shall be required in all public places within the City. All persons entering a commercial establishment in the City must wear a face covering while inside the establishment. A face covering 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...”

The council last strengthened the ordinance in November, raising the fine amount from $25 to $100.

The next scheduled council meeting is February 16.

SC Department of Health and Environmental Control data shows 17% of all of the state’s cases have been found in people ages 21 to 30.

That leads all age groups.

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