COLUMBIA, S.C. — The Richland County Council has approved a mask ordinance for most public spaces, the latest jurisdiction to bring back a face covering requirement.
The council voted in favor of the measure at a special called meeting Tuesday night.
“I really want us to think about our children. This is about our children. I don’t wanna wear a mask. I go in and out of schools everyday. But I’m double masked.. Why? Because I’m concerned about the children I'm gonna come in contact with," said councilwoman Gretchen Barron.
The ordinance goes into effect on Wednesday, September 15 and will last for 60 days. Violators could face a $25 fine.
The ordinance is fundamentally the same as the one the county had for the last half of 2020 and the first several months of 2021. It requires face masks in essentially all businesses and other public venues. It also calls for masks in places where social distancing can't be done.
It will be enforced by the Richland County Fire Marshals.
“Essentially our fire marshals will go out, say maybe if a parent complained or just on, they will take periodic visits to schools, they will ticket individuals who do not have their masks on, period," said Deputy County attorney Elizabeth McClean.
The ordinance also requires masks in schools, but does not call for any employees of the school to enforce it. That's so it can adhere to state law that prohibits any school district from using state funds to enforce a mask mandate. The South Carolina Supreme Court clarified that included employees, since they are employees whose salary comes from a partially state-funded institution.
Face coverings will not be required for peoples ages ten and younger. People with health conditions will also be exempt.
The school requirement was patterned after the City of Columbia's mandate, which was passed last week. Cayce and West Columbia have also passed mandates again.
“I think this is a great step for the citizens of Richland County and particularly children of Richland County who are not vaccinated and those folks who have spent so much time in hospitals and seeing their loved ones die, I think it’s important for our community," said chairman Paul Livingston.
The decisions came after local hospital officials implored the leaders to do something to blunt the rising number of COVID-19 cases. The cases has seen near record number of cases, and hospitalizations are higher than they've ever been during the pandemic, even during the winter surge back in January.
A total of 4,269 new cases and 43 new deaths were reported on Tuesday by the state's health agency, SCDHEC.
The full terms of the ordinance can be viewed here