Aiken City Council approves third mask ordinance


AIKEN, S.C. (WJBF) – You’re going to need a face covering or mask if you plan to go into a commercial business in the All-America City. The Aiken City Council voted 5-2 Thursday night at a special called meeting approving their third mask ordinance.

The latest numbers from DHEC show positive coronavirus cases are rising in South Carolina. In the last two weeks, there have been more than 470 positive cases in Aiken County.

“I’m all for anything that is going to make people comfortable getting together,” said Chris Najmola.

The latest mask ordinance expired on November 16. The first ordinance went into effect on July 17. From there to November 16, Aiken Public Safety Chief Charles Barranco reports they received 81 calls for service regarding the mask ordinances. Only one person was given a trespass notice. No charges were filed.

“So many people will take their masks off. It’s crazy to me the number of people that don’t want to wear them but don’t speak up because of fear of mask shaming,” said Jeannette Moseley.

The new ordinance approved is not an emergency. The mandate allows the city to lift it any time or until Governor Henry McMaster lifts his executive order under the guidance of DHEC. It’s a possibility Aiken’s mask ordinance could be long-term.

“The pandemic is an issue and it needs to be addressed. I’m not exactly sure if a mask is ultimately going to be the answer to that problem,” said Najmola.

Many people at the special called city council meeting were against the mask ordinance. Some claimed the Municipal Association of South Carlina wrote the ordinance while others cried “faith over fear.” Others said wearing a mask should be a choice.

“Definitely should be left up to the individual. If they feel uncomfortable, wear a mask and if they’re fine, don’t wear a mask. It should be their choice. It shouldn’t be forced upon us,” said Jeannette Moseley.

The penalty for not wearing a mask is $25 and it’s non-graduating. But if you don’t comply, you could be charged with trespassing which can cost more than a thousand dollars and jail time.

Ryan Moseley added, “We’re supportive of people who want to wear masks. That’s your prerogative but we’re also supporting the people who don’t want to wear them. And the voice of people who don’t want to wear them dwindling away by the day.”

The face-covering/mask ordinance will go into effect on November 20 at 12:00 p.m.

Requirements for Face-Coverings/Masks

  • All food service or restaurant establishments shall comply with the emergency restrictions set forth in Governor Henry McMaster’s Executive Order No. 2020-63 
  • All customers are required to wear Face-Coverings/Masks while inside the enclosed area of any Retail Establishment;
  • All Retail Establishments shall require staff to wear, and those staff shall wear, Face-Coverings/Masks while working in areas open to the general public and areas in which interactions with other staff are likely in which social distancing of at least six feet cannot be observed; and
  • Businesses subject to this ordinance are required to post appropriate signage at each public entrance to the building, informing anyone entering the building of these requirements. The operator of the business shall ensure that all people entering the building are complying.
  • Failure by customers to comply with this ordinance could result in a misdemeanor charge and fine of $25 relative to trespassing as defined in South Carolina Code Section 16-11-520 if they refuse to leave the premises.

Exemptions. Face-Coverings/Masks Shall Not Be Required:

  • In outdoor or unenclosed areas appurtenant to Retail Establishments in which social distancing of at least six feet is possible and observed;
  • For people whose religious beliefs prevent them from wearing a Face-Covering/Mask;
  • For those who cannot wear a Face-Covering/Mask due to a medical or behavioral condition;
  • In Aiken County School District K-12 facilities located in the City limits;
  • In private, individual offices;
  • When complying with directions of law enforcement officers;
  • In settings where it is not practical or feasible to wear a Face-Covering/Mask, including when obtaining goods or services such as the receipt of: 

a. dental services, 

b. barbering services, 

c. beautician services; or while swimming;

  • While doing outdoor physical activity;
  • Police officers, firefighters, or other first responders when not practical or engaged in a public safety matter of an emergency nature, or persons engaged in the repair or maintenance of infrastructure;
  • While exclusively with members of a family in the same household, and no person other than such family or household is within the same enclosed area.

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