Columbia, SC, passes citywide mask ordinance, including schools

Southeast Region

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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WBTW) — The City of Columbia voted unanimously Wednesday to reinstate its citywide mask ordinance, which includes schools.

Masks will be required to be worn in public places within city limits where social distancing is not possible, including indoor public places and busy sidewalks. Retail stores, restaurants, bars, barbershops, salons, grocery stores, and pharmacies in the city must require employees to wear masks.

Each individual employee violating the ordinance will be considered a separate offense.

The ordinance contains exemptions for medical conditions or being unable to remove the mask without the help of another person. They’re also not required in personal vehicles, when social distancing is possible, during outdoor physical activity, when getting personal services that would be prevented by a mask, or for anyone under 5 years old.

Anyone violating the ordinance is subject to a fine up to $100.

The ordinance will also apply to schools in the city, despite the South Carolina Supreme Court ruling against the city’s previous mask ordinance for schools. The new ordinance says fire marshals — and only fire marshals — are responsible for enforcing the ordinance in schools. No school staff members are required to enforce the ordinance.

The ordinance also states no schools will be allowed to create, announce, or enforce any policy requiring face masks related to this ordinance, and that sole responsibility falls on the city. Districts also can’t use state funds for anything related to the ordinance. Similar medical exemptions also apply to schools.

The city’s last attempt at requiring masks in schools was shot down by the state Supreme Court for violating Proviso 1.108. In the ruling, the Supreme Court said the previous order placed responsibility on school personnel to enforce it, putting them at odds to choose between violating state law or local law.

The ordinance will remain in effect for 30 days.

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