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Richland Co. and Forest Acres leaders expect councils will pass mask requirements

Published: Sep. 9, 2021 at 7:16 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Mask mandates are coming back to the Midlands.

After Cayce, West Columbia and Columbia passed mask ordinances, leaders with the Richland County Council and Forest Acres City Council tell WIS they expect their jurisdictions to follow suit.

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Both Richland County Council Chairman Paul Livingston and Forest Acres Mayor Frank Brunson cited safety as a driving concern. “We’re extremely alarmed and concerned about the increasing COVID cases in our community, the hospitalization rates, increase in deaths, all those things are of great concern to us. In particular, the impact it’s having on our children,” Livingston said.

Brunson pointed to the economic benefits of a safer community, and the importance of regional uniformity.

“We want to make certain that we provide as safe an environment as we can for not only the people that live and work here but those people that also visit here,” Brunson said.

The Richland County Council previously instituted a mask mandate for some students but stopped enforcing it after the State Supreme Court struck down Columbia’s mask mandate for schools.

Council Chairman Paul Livingston said he expects the council to pass an ordinance, but it’s unclear if schools will be covered.

“I don’t want to get ahead of my colleagues, but I would think we would look at everything that we put on the table here. What we would do, I’m not sure. That certainly would be considered, that’s a big concern, that’s why we did it before,” he said.

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Brunson said he expects the ordinance and a measure to allow the council to meet virtually to be on the next council agenda.

He also said he expects a discussion on a vaccine mandate for Forest Acres employees to play out soon.

Columbia passed a similar measure earlier this week.

RELATED | City of Columbia votes to implement vaccine mandate for all employees

“Vaccinations, I think that’s the name of the game. We’re going to have to get everybody vaccinated, we plan on discussing some incentives for our employees if we have folks who are not vaccinated,” he said.

“I think we got to force that issue. I don’t like any mandates, but common sense doesn’t seem to be working too well, even when it gets down to masks. That should be an item for discussion as well.”

He said he would prefer using incentives and said the council may get a report on the legality of a mandate at its next meeting.

Both councils are scheduled to meet on Tuesday, Sept. 14 at 6 p.m.

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