LEXINGTON, S.C. — Several governments in Lexington County are thinking about or are issuing mask mandates as the number of coronavirus cases continue to rise during the pandemic.
Town of Lexington
The Town of Lexington had a meeting Monday night and had a discussion on a mask ordinance.
Previously, the town had an emergency ordinance, but it ended at the beginning of November. They were unable to renew the ordinance because town council didn't have the votes to renew it.
"We've had a lot of interest, a lot of calls, a lot of emails about reinstating the mask ordinance so when that happens in our community, we certainly discuss it," said Town of Lexington Mayor Steve MacDougall.
They mayor says they'll be looking at potentially bringing back the face mask ordinance.
Most of the concerns the mayor has been made aware are due to the spike in coronavirus cases recently.
Mayor MacDougall says as councilmembers it's important to take whatever is brought to them by the citizens in the community and discuss it.
"I think the most important thing is done though is brought to light the importance of protecting our vulnerable in our community and we really need to kind of refocus on that and make sure that those people are being protected and we're doing what's right and what we should do to help each other," explained Mayor MacDougall.
The mayor isn't sure if a new mask ordinance will pass or not, but he believes it's important to talk about and make the right decision for the Town of Lexington.
Mayor MacDougall believes it's a 50-50 split in the community on those who are in favor of a mask ordinance and those who are not.
"The good thing is the businesses are requiring it which helps and this is the right thing to do. If we can't social distance, we should go back to those rules that we learned from the very beginning," said Mayor MacDougall.
The Town of Lexington is looking to have a public hearing on the mask ordinance soon. There's not a date scheduled at this time. According to the mayor, people need to know about the public hearing at least a week in advance according to state law. The town council wants to make sure people in the community can give their input before voting on a mask ordinance.
"I hope that maybe this conversation does bring that little bit of spark back and people take this a little more seriously and we start doing the things that we need to do to protect those folks," explained Mayor MacDougall.
The mayor wants to remind folks with the holidays to make sure they're are protecting their loved ones and do the right thing.
The County of Lexington has recently decided to make changes on how employees and visitors interact in county buildings.
"As a lot of other parts of the country are seeing right now, coronavirus cases are rising in South Carolina and in Lexington County," said Harrison Cahill, spokesperson for the County of Lexington. "In order to help combat this rise in cases, the County of Lexington has moved all employees to wear masks at least through January."
Previously, it was an option for employees to decide whether they wanted to wear a mask or face shield while in spaces where they interact with colleagues.
The county says they'll assess after the Christmas Holiday whether they'll extend that mandate for employees for a longer period of time.
"It's also important to know that we are actually requiring all visitors that are coming into the administration building here, they already have to wear them in the courts and in any other place in the county where people interact with county employees, masks will be required," explained Cahill.
Before the new mandate, it was optional for visitors to wear a mask or face shield at the administration building, but it was encouraged by the county that people follow the CDC guidelines. Cahill says they have been seeing everyone wear a mask as they come into the building.
The mask mandate will be for situation when people are paying their taxes, adopting pets and other matters. The buildings include the administration building, the county courts, the Lexington Animal Shelter and any other place people would interact with county employees.
"It's become kind of ingrained in our society to wear a mask no matter where you go into within public so I think it's going to be an easy transition for people coming in," said Cahill.
The mandate is now in place starting December 9th moving through January.
Cahill wants to remind folks to be patient as they wait in line to pay taxes at the administration building.
People can also using the county's website to pay taxes and other services.
"Ultimately, this is just for the safety of everyone. We all want to make sure that we get through this pandemic alive and healthy and well," explained Cahill. "This is something where we're moving forward with for the near future."
This is not a county-wide mask mandate. Lexington County has left it to towns and cities to make their own decisions on having a mask ordinance.