Lowcountry communities weigh mask requirements as COVID-19 cases continue to grow

Lowcountry communities weigh mask requirements as COVID-19 cases continue to grow
Communities across South Carolina are deciding whether to require people to wear masks as concern about the spread of the novel coronavirus continues to grow. (Source: Live 5/File)

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - Should wearing masks in public be mandatory? That’s the question several Lowcountry communities are answering as they consider ordinances requiring masks to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Here is a look at the action communities in the Lowcountry have taken so far:

Charleston

The city of Charleston passed an ordinance Thursday that will make wearing face masks in places like restaurants and grocery stores a requirement. That ordinance, passed Thursday night, takes effect on Wednesday. People who do not wear a mask will first receive a warning and then a $50 fine.

Mayor John Tecklenburg said the city is working with businesses and giving them signs to display about the ordinance.

The ordinance states that the use of a face mask is required for every person within the city for the following conditions:

  • All restaurants and retail stores that include but are not limited to salons, barber shops, grocery stores, pharmacies, or other building open to the public.
  • While interacting with people in outdoor spaces including but not limited to curbside pickup, delivery, and service calls.
  • While providing public or commercial transportation including tours.
  • While walking in public where maintaining a six foot distance between people is not possible
  • When participating in a permitted or allowable gathering

Those exempt from wearing a mask include the following:

  • Any person who is unable to safely wear a face covering due to age, an underlying health condition, or is unable to remove the face covering without the assistance of others;
  • Any person traveling in their personal vehicles;
  • When a person is alone or only with other household members in an enclosed space;
  • While participating in an outdoor physical activity, provided the active person maintains a minimum of six (6) feet from other people at all times;
  • While actively drinking, eating or smoking;
  • In an outdoor or unenclosed area appurtenant to retail establishments or foodservice establishments in which social distancing of at least six feet is possible and observed;
  • For people whose religious beliefs prevent them from wearing a face covering;
  • For children under 10 years old, provided that adults accompanying children ages two through 10 shall use reasonable efforts to cause those children to wear face coverings while inside the enclosed area of any retail establishment or foodservice establishment;
  • In private, individual offices;
  • When complying with directions of law enforcement officers;
  • In settings where it is not feasible to wear a face covering, including when obtaining or rendering goods or services such as the receipt of dental services or while swimming; and,
  • Police officers, fire fighters and other first responders when not practical or engaged in a public safety matter of an emergency nature.

The mayor said the goal of the ordinance is to educate and not have to use enforcement.

The city’s ordinance would remain in effect for 60 days.

North Charleston

North Charleston Mayor Keith Summey is urging people to wear a mask in public, but he says he does not expect his city to pass an ordinance requiring them.

Use a mask to protect yourself and people around you, just like we use a circular saw with a safety guard. Use common sense, wear a mask!

Posted by North Charleston Government on Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Summey says he doesn’t want to get to the point where the city has to fine people for not wearing one.

“We’re encouraging you to do it for your safety, the safety of the people around you and your family,” Summey said in a Facebook video posted to the city’s page Thursday.

In the video, Summey compared the safety block on a circular saw to a face mask, calling both “safety devices.”

Mount Pleasant

“Though we had a confirmed quorum, the will of Council is to wait until everyone can be present,” Mayor Will Haynie said.

Haynie has called a 5:15 p.m. news conference for Friday afternoon.

Edisto Beach

Leaders plan on discussing a possible face mask requirement at a meeting Friday morning.

Hanahan

Hanahan City Council passed a resolution Friday afternoon to encourage face masks.

Council has not yet passed a measure that would require them.

Isle of Palms

Leaders on the Isle of Palms will consider a possible ordinance requiring face masks at a meeting Friday afternoon.

Folly Beach

The city of Folly Beach will discuss an emergency ordinance requiring people to wear masks at a special emergency city council meeting on Monday at 3 p.m.

Goose Creek

Goose Creek City Council voted against requiring masks Thursday, but city leaders are still strongly urging people to wear them.

The vote was 4 to 3 against the measure.

Council did approve another resolution to “encourage” citizens to wear masks.

Before the Thursday night vote was taken, Mayor Greg Habib said it was “fair to say wearing a mask is better than not wearing a mask,” referring to the CDC’s guidance.

Across South Carolina

The Upstate city of Greenville was the first in the state to pass a face mask requirement ordinance, WYFF-TV reported. It went into effect on Tuesday. The city of Clemson also passed a requirement.

Columbia City Council passed a face mask ordinance Tuesday that required them for customers and workers in commercial businesses, with some health and “situational” exceptions. The capital city’s ordinance took effect at 6 a.m. Friday.


The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control announced 1,106 new confirmed COVID-19 cases on Friday along with eight additional deaths.

Those totals brought the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the state to 28,962 and the number of deaths to 691.

The latest recovery data DHEC has released, from Monday, estimates 81% of the positive cases for which the agency has symptom onset data have recovered, while 19% remain ill.

State epidemiologist Dr. Linda Bell said with the new increase in cases reported this week, South Carolina is at a “critical junction.” There was a record high number of positive cases reported on Wednesday with 1,291 cases.

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