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Clearing up questions about Columbia's mask ordinance

The city is working to identify areas they need to focus on to enforce the ordinance. So far, Columbia hasn't written any fines for people not wearing a mask.

COLUMBIA, S.C. — The City of Columbia started its mask ordinance last Friday requiring people to where one in most situations.

Some people like Brittany Johnson-Jefferson support the ordinance but still are unsure what all the rules are.

"I would want to know like in a park or if you're jogging around in your neighborhood, are you still expected to where a mask? If you don't have a mask on, are you going to be fined? If you are fined, how much is the fine? Are there first and second offences? Stuff like that. I would like to know that too."

Under the ordinance, every person over the age of ten would be required to wear a face covering within the boundaries of the City of Columbia in the following situations:

  • Inside a building open to the public;
  • Waiting to enter a building open to the public;
  • Interacting with other people in outdoor spaces, including, but not limited to, curbside pickup, delivery, and service calls;
  • When engaging in business activities in private spaces;
  • Utilizing public or private transportation; or
  • Walking in public where maintaining a distance of six (6) feet between other members of public at all times is not possible.

Face coverings would not be required in the following circumstances:

  • In personal vehicles;
  • When a person is alone in enclosed spaces; during outdoor physical activity, provided the active person maintains a minimum of six (6) feet from other people at all times;
  • When a person is alone or only with other household members;
  • While drinking, eating or smoking;
  • When wearing a face covering causes or aggravates a health condition. 

The measure would have a misdemeanor penalty with a fine of no more than $25. Businesses that don't require employees to wear the mask could face a $100 fine. Each day of non-compliance for businesses is considered a new violation.

RELATED: Are mask mandates legal in South Carolina?

News 19 talked to Teresa Wilson, the City Manager, to find out answers to your questions. Wilson says most people have been complying with the new ordinance.

"Because of the overwhelming support we've seen for the mask ordinance, that people know the only tools in our tool boxes right now as a community are masks wearing and physical distancing," explained Wilson.

Some folks are wanting to know if they have to wear a mask while walking on the sidewalk.

Wilson says they're basing it off people being social distant with folks outside of their household.

"We encourage people to certainly make sure that they are wearing the mask in those cases, even if they're outside and they can't do that, but if you can do that and be physically distant  then you don't have to necessarily have the mask on while you're walking down the street," said Wilson.

One of the biggest questions is how the city plans on enforcing the ordinance. While some places have seen a lot of people wearing masks, others like the Five Points area have not been the same case.

"Obviously everywhere across the city, there have to be lots of reminders and encouragement," explained Wilson. "Areas of town where a lot of our younger population frequents or college students, we're working with the colleges and universities as well to make sure we get that word out to folks to really please wear a mask."

The city is working to identify areas they need to focus on to enforce the ordinance. So far, Columbia hasn't written any fines for people not wearing a mask.

Wilson believes cities in the Palmetto State are making the right call in requiring masks.

"I think it's appropriate really that the Capital City and many other cities and major cities in South Carolina are taking leadership on that and really rallying around our communities and getting our neighborhood leaders and other community activists around this same mantra of let's all take care of each other," Wilson said.

If someone has a question about the ordinance, they are asked to call the Customer Care Center at (803)-545-3300.

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