Mask mandate violations issued, city and health officials worry ahead of Labor Day weekend

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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – Since the city implemented their Mask Ordinance, roughly 150 warnings and 18 court summons were issued by the City of Charleston. Now, the city and local health officials are issuing a stark warning in regards to masks not being worn by all.

According to the city’s livability office, those mainly not following the mask ordinance are both tourists and tour guides.  

I think the tourism side is a little bit problematic—all of the problems I had when approaching tourists or out of town guests—they say that they’re not aware of the ordinance. However, everyone that I have stopped and talked with has a mask with them, they were just not wearing it at the time. 

Dan Riccio, Director of Livability and Tourism

Recent data from Trident Health shows the trend of businesses reopening and the relative spike of COVID cases prior to Charleston’s mask ordinance. As seen in the graphs, Dr. Lee Biggs, Chief Medical Officer for Trident Health, said that the peak of all cases in the Lowcountry and state of South Carolina was July 10th. Subsequently, just two weeks later Dr. Biggs said there was a peak in mortalities.  

Peak cases, two weeks later peak the most severe aspects. We have to remember that doesn’t mean that in two weeks after a spike—everybody is well and goes home. I mean these are still multi-week hospital stays and incredibly sick people but if we don’t learn from Memorial Day and July 4th and apply that to what we’re about to go through with school re-openings and Labor Day—then we could be building the same conditions for another peak in cases.  

Dr. Lee Biggs, Chief Medical Officer Trident Health 

While the initial mask ordinance did slow the spread, the city is now dealing with two new issues: COVID fatigue and an increase in tourism. Dr. Biggs said if more tire of wearing masks, there is a good chance the number of infected could impact the hospital system.

He said the reality is that COVID-19 will be here until we solve it and the only thing that we know that has worked are the social distancing and masking protocols as exhibited in the hospital setting. The reason that a lot of hospital workers who are managing COVID patients haven’t been severely impacted is that they mask, practice good social distancing, wash their hands and are aware of the symptomology consistent with COVID-19.

Meanwhile, Riccio said with the holiday coming up—there’s an overwhelming concern of trying to reach visitors and tourists before they go out into the public without a face covering. 

That’s why we really rely on all our entities of our hotels, and the restaurants, and the CVB and all the retailers to just get that message across if they see a tourist or a visitor and just let them know—please wear a mask, it’s mandatory, it’s the law.  

Dan Riccio, Director of Livability and Tourism

Riccio said that as of now, the Charleston Visitors Bureau (CVB) is assisting in the effort to ensure that masks are worn by tourists, tour guides and merchants here in the City of Charleston, and they hope that that Labor Day model does not come true. 

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