In a joint meeting between the City Council and County Council on June 29, an emergency ordinance was passed requiring that face coverings or masks be worn in public in Colleton County and Walterboro, effective Wednesday July 1 at 6 a.m.
According to officials, 42% of the total of all S.C. cases have occurred in the two weeks prior to June 24. As of Monday June 29, Colleton County had 323 cases and 21 deaths reported to SCDHEC. Active cases are: Cottageville, 29; Green Pond, 8; Jacksonboro, 3; Ridgeville, 17; Round O, 3; Ruffin, 12; Smoaks, 32; Walterboro, 216; Williams, 3; Islandton, 5: and Yemassee, 24.
As of June 24, the daily report of COVID cases in the state at 1,303 was the highest to date. There were a total of 27,897 confirmed cases throughout S.C. and 683 deaths statewide.
In a press conference Friday June 26, Gov. Henry McMaster said he would not impose statewide compulsion of wearing masks, but would leave the decision up to local governments.
The city and county are taking steps to try to protect the citizens and employees from increased risk of exposure by passing the ordinance.
The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (SCDHEC) has confirmed the localized person-to-person spread of COVID-19 in South Carolina, which indicates a significantly high risk of exposure and infection creating an extreme public health risk.
Since Walterboro is located on the 1-95 corridor, the county is exposed to visitors from across the country and is particularly vulnerable to infection. The number of cases is growing rapidly and if COVID-19 continues to spread in the city and county, the number of persons relying on medical, pharmaceutical and general cleaning supplies will increase; the private and public sector work force will be negatively impacted by absenteeism; and the demand for medical facilities may exceed locally available resources.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and SCDHEC advise the use of cloth face coverings to slow the spread of COVID-19 to control outbreaks, minimizing the risk to the public, maintaining the health and safety of the city’s residents and limiting the spread of infection in the community and within the healthcare delivery system.
The ordinance requires:
All persons entering a commercial establishment in the city and county must wear a face covering while inside the establishment. This does not apply to religious establishments. However, the use of face coverings is recommended during religious activities as well.
All restaurants, retail stores, salons, barber shops, grocery stores and pharmacies must require their employees to wear a face covering at all times while having face-to-face interaction with the public.
Any person who is unable to safely wear a face covering due to age, an underlying health condition or is unable to remove the face covering without the assistance of others is exempt from the ordinance.
Face coverings are not required in the following circumstances:
a. In personal vehicles
b. When a person is alone in enclosed spaces; during outdoor physical activity, provided the active person maintains a minimum of six feet from other people at all times.
c. When a person is alone or only with other household members.
d. While actively drinking, eating, or smoking.
e. When wearing a face covering causes or aggravates a health condition.
f. When wearing a face covering would prevent the receipt of personal services.
A person who fails to wear a mask as outlined by this ordinance will be guilty of a civil infraction, punishable by a fine of not more than $25.
A business owner who fails to comply will be guilty of a civil infraction, punishable by a fine of not more than $100 with each day of a continuing violation considered a separate and distinct offense.
In addition to the fines, repeated violations by a person who owns, manages, operates or otherwise controls a business subject to this ordinance may face suspension or revocation of the occupancy permit or business license issued to a business where the repeated violations occurred.
Repeated violations will be considered a public nuisance, which may result in a restraining order, preliminary and permanent injunction or other means allowed by law.
Every effort shall be made to bring the business into voluntary compliance prior to the issuance of any citation.