Charleston updates mask policy as ‘National State of Emergency’ comes to an end

In Charleston, leaders are revisiting a city ordinance that was put on pause back when cases were spiking.
Published: May. 9, 2023 at 11:09 PM EDT|Updated: May. 10, 2023 at 4:01 AM EDT
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - As COVID-19 cases continue to dwindle, the “National State of Emergency”, put in place during the coronavirus pandemic, is set to come to an end later this week.

In Charleston, leaders are revisiting a city ordinance that was put on pause back when cases were spiking.

The City of Charleston’s current masking ordinance says adults are not allowed to wear masks in Charleston city limits for any reason.

Tuesday, Charleston’s City Council discussed a new version of that ordinance that includes some exceptions.

“The current law doesn’t have any exceptions for medical reasons and that kind of thing. So, it’s going in front of the city council with some of those exceptions,” Captain Jason Bruder, with the Charleston Police Department, said. “A little more of a refined, ‘21st century’ version of you will.”

Bruder said the updated masking policy restricts anyone over the age of 16 from wearing a mask out in public with some exceptions- including Halloween costumes, sporting events and religious or medical reasons.

He said updating the ordinance will give police the tools they need to enforce it, helping to keep the community safe.

“If people are trying to hide who they are in our community, they’re typically up to no good,” Bruder said.

When it comes to COVID-19 in the Lowcountry, MUSC Hospital officials said they are seeing some of the lowest numbers they’ve seen.

“We can detect COVID in wastewater and we also look closely at hospitalizations, and really on all these metrics the values are quite low right now,” Director of the Center for Global Health at MUSC Michael Sweat said.

He said although numbers are low, it’s hard to tell the future of COVID-19 because it’s only been around for a few years.

“It’s not likely to go away, that’s for sure,” Sweat said. “It’s really out there and I don’t see any reason it’s going to go away in the medium or long term even.”

The updated masking ordinance was given a first reading by the Charleston City Council Tuesday.

From here it will likely be amended before going to council for a second reading.