CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – Charleston City Council met on Tuesday to discuss cracking down on COVID-19 precautions. They passed additional mitigating measures, intended to slow the spread of COVID-19, as Charleston emerges as a hotspot.
Council voted to amend the mask requirement clarifying that it applies to all areas of the city.
“The use of a face covering or mask is required by every person within the boundaries of
the City of Charleston in all public places, including sidewalks, streets, and public rights of
ways”City of Charleston
Exceptions to the mandate include:
- 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
- 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 smoking, drinking, or eating
According to the City of Charleston, additional protective measures include:
- Increased penalties for noncompliance
- 50% capacity in bars and restaurants
- No amplified music after 9 p.m.
- Provision allowing businesses to refuse to serve customers who fail to wear mask after being informed of the ordinance and provided a copy
- Businesses will be subject to penalties for failure to comply with capacity and music restrictions
- Added enforcement by the Fire Marshal, Charleston Police Department and Building Inspections Division, in addition to Livability Code Enforcement Officers
The following measures, already in place, will remain in effect, according to the city:
- No alcohol service after 11 p.m.
- Restrictions on senior and correctional facilities
- Movie theaters and public venues closed
- Authority granted to law enforcement to dispense gatherings of 3 or more
- Masks are required in all public indoor spaces and within 6 feet of others outdoors
- No social gatherings of 10 or more on city property
- Retail businesses are required to post social distancing signage and one-way aisle marking
The vote in favor of the additional measures was almost unanimous, with Harry Griffin being the lone “nay” vote.
The amended ordinance also increases fines for those without a mask. The first offense will result in a $100 fine, the second offense a $200 fine and a third offense a $500 fine. Although officials say they will continue to focus on education as the preliminary response.
For two weeks the message has been education when it comes to enforcement of the mandate. Now as case numbers across the Lowcountry continue to spike, leaders are hoping stricter penalties will encourage more to take safety precautions.
“I think it’s a good idea because I’m at the age that I just wonder why people don’t wear a mask,” says Chuck Jones, visiting from Myrtle Beach.
City leaders are calling current COVID-19 trends “concerning and dangerous.” And despite the spike in cases, some are still following precautions loosely.
“I would say you probably only got around thirty percent wearing a mask and the rest of them aren’t,” says Jones.
While council expressed concerns about the impact to businesses, they feared that the impact of a potential second shutdown would be much worse. They reasoned that these lesser measures, while still damaging to some extent, are preferable to the virus getting even more out of control, overwhelming the healthcare system, and causing a second economic shutdown.
“We’re trying to strike a balance between you know the needs of our citizens and our visitors and our businesses with the needs to keep everyone safe,” says Shannon Scaff, Director of Emergency Management for the City of Charleston.
Scaff, says the city is hoping to reverse it’s hotspot status developed in recent weeks..
“Remind folks of how serious this really is so we’re having to take measure in terms of enforcement that will help to get that point across,” says Scaff.
City leaders and employees, residents and visitors all share a stake in changing current COVID trends in the City.
“We have a responsibility to listen to them and they’re urging us to wear masks and to practice social distancing,” says Scaff.
Jones says if a $500 dollar fine isn’t enough to get someone to wear a mask, he doesn’t know what is.
“If after paying a five hundred dollar fine and they ain’t got enough sense to wear a one dollar mask well then they’re too ignorant to even understand why they should wear one,” says Jones.