Beaufort, Hilton Head pass mask ordinances; 5 other communities to decide Monday

Updated: Jun. 29, 2020 at 11:13 AM EDT
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - Hilton Head Island and the City of Beaufort are the first of seven Lowcountry communities to decide to approve an ordinance requiring face masks in public.

Summerville, Mount Pleasant, James Island, Folly Beach, and Kiawah Island have all scheduled meetings on Monday and some of those communities could pass ordinances that would require face masks in places like grocery stores, retail stores, restaurants and other places.

Mount Pleasant Town Council is expected to consider a mask mandate.

Folly Beach leaders say they have a low rate of mask usage and have noticed that people aren’t frequently social distancing.

Bluffton Town Council and Seabrook Island Town Council are expected to vote on a mask ordinance on Tuesday.

Hilton Head Island and Beaufort join a growing number of communities that have taken action on whether to require face masks to help slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Beaufort City Council unanimously passed an ordinance requiring face covers for any member of the public who enters a public building, including all stores and restaurants within the city limits Monday morning, city spokesperson Kathleen Williams said. The ordinance also requires employees of such establishments to wear masks.

The ordinance passed at an emergency meeting this morning, and will go into effect at 11:59 p.m. Tuesday. It will be in effect for at least 30 days, at which point it will be ended or extended.

“All restaurants, retail establishments of every description, salons, grocery stores, and pharmacies in the municipal limits of the City shall require their employees to wear a face covering at all times that the employees are in any area where the general public is allowed or when the employees must be in close proximity to one another,” the ordinance states. “This requirement also applies to all persons providing or utilizing public or commercial transportation, including tours; and all businesses or employees while interacting with people in outdoor spaces, including, but not limited to, curbside pickup, delivery, and service calls.”

The following people are exempt from the ordinance:

  • Any person who is unable to safely wear a face covering because of age or an underlying health condition, or who is unable to remove the face covering without the assistance of others
  • Any person traveling in a personal vehicle, or when a person is alone or is in the presence of only household members in an enclosed space
  • People who are actively drinking or eating

The ordinance does not relieve business establishments and restaurants from other social distancing requirements imposed by Gov. Henry McMaster’s Executive Orders.

Hilton Head Island City Council voted to enforce an ordinance requiring the use of face masks in certain parts of the island during a special called meeting Monday morning.

The ordinance requires a face covering that covers the wearer’s nose and mouth in any establishment located in a closed building or other indoor environment that primarily sells or provides goods or services. The ordinance covers retail establishments that include grocery stores, restaurants, lobbies and public spaces in hotels, motels and timeshare complexes, pharmacies, bars, salons, retail stores, medical and dental offices.

The ordinance requires anyone entering a commercial business in the town limits to wear a face covering. Employees must also wear face coverings whenever they are in any area where the general public is allowed or wherever the employees must be in close proximity with each other.

The ordinance provides exemptions for the following people:

  • Any person who is unable to safely wear a Face Covering due to age, an underlying health condition, or who is unable to don or remove the Face Covering without the assistance of others
  • People eating or consuming food and beverages
  • People receiving medical care or treatment

Hilton Head Mayor John McCann said the ordinance would be enforced by the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office. Violations will be considered a misdemeanor and could lead to fines.

Their ordinance takes effect at 11:59 p.m. on Tuesday and will remain in effect for 60 days.

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.

The City of Isle of Palms passed an ordinance Friday requiring face masks be worn at retail establishments and food service establishments which includes grocery stores and restaurants.

The vote was 6 to 2, and it will go into effect on Wednesday.

Mayor Jimmy Carroll said the ordinance adds another layer of protection for all the citizens. He said it’s almost impossible to enforce the ordinance, but they’re hoping they can send a message.

“This is a way of showing our citizens and our visitors that we’re trying to take the right steps, and we are taking this very seriously,” Carroll said.

North Charleston Mayor Keith Summey is urging people to wear a face mask in public, but North Charleston City Council did not pass an ordinance requiring them.

Summey said last week 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.”

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.

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 city of Spartanburg passed a face mask ordinance Friday. That ordinance takes effect Monday at noon.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says you should wear face coverings in public when you’re not able to social distance to slow the spread of coronavirus. South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster says he does not plan to enact a statewide face mask mandate.

The CDC says the virus spreads mainly from person to person through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or talks.

The masks are intended to create a barrier from those droplets to help slow the spread of the virus.

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