Remaining local mask mandates may be in final days

Remaining local mask mandates may be in final days

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - As we approach a new chapter in mask wearing across the country, here in South Carolina there are still many local and municipal governments requiring a mask for certain activities.

Mask mandates can be confusing at this point, as the rules for whether a mask is still required at places restaurants and retail stores vary from county to county, and even sometimes from town to town.

There are 3 counties in the midlands, including Richland, Orangeburg, and Calhoun Counties with mask ordinances still in effect as of April 30. All require masks in restaurants, stores, and other businesses.

“The current mask policy is getting confusing because we are getting close to the end of the mask ordinance, and some communities have it on, some communities have it off,” Councilman Howard Duvall said.

Richland County’s mask ordinance is in effect until June 5 and requires a mask in most public spaces.

The City of Columbia, Cayce, Forest Acres, Irmo, and West Columbia all have their own mask ordinances in place as well.

Earlier this week Governor McMaster called on all local governments to end face mask policies.

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“I’d ask that the cities and counties that have restrictions out there to wrap it up,” Governor McMaster said. “We’ve got to get back to normal. There’s a lot of businesses pent up. They want to do things and except in some circumstances there is no reason to hold them back anymore.”

Councilman Howard Duvall said this might be happening in Columbia soon.

“I think we are getting to the point where we take it off,” Duvall said. “I think we need to coordinate the city of Columbia, Richland County, and Forest Acres and make sure they all come off essentially at the same time.”

Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin said in a statement, “We will continue to follow the data and the CDC guidelines and make the right decision for our citizens and families as it relates to our local approach. I fully expect the city council will address the ordinance very soon.”

Columbia City Council has their next meeting on Tuesday where Duvall said he expects they will discuss the ordinance.

Richland County Councilwoman Gretchen Barron said the council’s COVID-19 committee is reviewing the mask ordinance.

“What we know is that there is a high level of hesitancy in Richland County, and with that level of hesitancy we want to be real careful about saying, ‘no more masks,’” Barron said.

She said the council is considering revising the mandate to reflect the CDC’s recommendations or letting it expire altogether on June 5th. Barron echoed Duvall’s opinion that there needs to be coordination between local governments.

“We’re working to really work together so that when the citizens come out, they don’t have to think: do I need a mask or do I not need a mask?” Barron said.

Orangeburg County has a mask ordinance that lasts until May 11 and Calhoun has an ordinance in effect until June 12.

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