CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – Staring Monday night, bars and restaurants can stay open past 11 p-m for the first time since last July and large-scale gatherings no longer require state approval.
Despite Governor McMaster rolling back some COVID-19 restrictions across the state, a mask mandate will remain in effect across the City of Charleston. Charleston city leaders say it’s businesses as usual when it comes to masks enforcement. Some people say the decision to wear a mask should be up to them to make.
“I think people just need to be smart, keep their distance and wash their hands and I really think we’re going to get rid of this virus sooner than later,” said one Charleston resident.
Rolling back restrictions across the state but Charleston leaders say they are standing firm with the goal of keeping virus spread minimal.
“The mask enforcement will continue and it’s everybody’s responsibility to take proactive measures and wear that mask,” says Dan Riccio, the city’s Director of Tourism and Livability..
Charleston streets look as busy as they have possibly since last March. Riccio says his officers are handing out citations, keeping an eye on the city’s active bar and restaurant districts.
“There is some compliance,” says Riccio. “But I think with the weather getting better and the sunshine coming out, people get a little complacent and forget to wear their mask.”
So far in Charleston, livability officers have handed out 713 citations, a majority of them being first time offenses. Across the Ravenel Bridge in Mount Pleasant, leaders say their focus remains on education when it comes to mask wearing.
“We’re proactively reaching out to businesses and places around town and having that conversation with them,” says Inspector Donald Calabrese who serves as the Public Information Officer with the Mount Pleasant Police Department.
Mount Pleasant’s ordinance only requires masks in limited spaces like grocery stores and pharmacies, not areas like Shem Creek. Inspector Calabrese says mask enforcement for customers and employees falls on businesses.
“Ultimately it is up to the business and if there is a patron or somebody that is not complying with their regulations and they are asked to leave, we can enforce that as a trespassing issue,” says Calabrese.
A varying approach from one municipality to the next. One resident who spoke with News 2 believes the decision to wear a mask should lie with people, not city leaders.
“I understand that people who have underlying conditions probably need to do it but other people I don’t think so much.”
The City of Charleston’s current mask ordinance is set to expire on March 12th. Riccio says city council is expected to discuss extending the ordinance at a meeting on March 9th. Charleston County Council will likely discuss extending its mask ordinance on March 8th before it expires.