AIKEN, S.C. (WJBF) — The City of Aiken issued an emergency ordinance requiring individuals to wear face coverings in certain situations to promote the general health of the community related to the potential exposure of city residents, employees, and visitors to COVID-19. The emergency ordinance passed with a vote of 5-2 in favor.
“Our people are anxious to see things get back to normal,” said Mayor Pro Tem Lessie Price. “Take into account this is not an ordinance that will last forever.”
The City Council took a look at proposed new rules during Monday’s city council meeting. They would require people to wear masks in retail and foodservice establishments.
“The quicker we can fall those guidelines, we can all achieve what we want to achieve,” explained Price. “That is to have the freedom the things we all enjoy.”
The new rules would require businesses to call public safety if customers fail to comply. Penalties include fines and possible jail time.
“The business owners can ask folks as they come in to wear a mask,” said Aiken Police Chief Charles Barranco. “If there was an issue and they ask them to leave and don’t come to a resolution, public safety can get involved. That would minimize some of the contacts we have.”
The regulations would not apply to children under 10. The same goes for those with medical reasons, and those who cannot wear a mask because of religious beliefs.
You also would not have to wear them during outdoor or physical activity.
“I think we are going down the wrong road,” said a citizen in the council meeting. “I don’t think this is the city council’s place to force its hardships on businesses.”
“I feel like the spirit of fear has gripped our city,” said a citizen in the council meeting. “This fear has turned us into someplace I struggle with living in.”
The ordinance will take effect Friday, July 17, 2020, and end 61 days later (September 16, 2020).
- All customers are required to wear Face Coverings while inside the enclosed area of any Retail Establishment or Foodservice Establishment;
- All Retail Establishments shall require staff to wear, and those staff shall wear, Face Coverings while working in areas open to the general public and regions where interactions with other staff are likely in which social distancing of at least six feet cannot be observed; and
- All Foodservice Establishments shall require staff who interact with customers (including, without limitation, delivery personnel) to wear, and those staff shall wear Face Coverings while working.
- Businesses subject to this ordinance are required to post appropriate signage at each public entrance to the building, informing anyone is entering the building of these requirements. The operator of the business shall ensure that all people entering the building comply.
- Failure by customers to comply with this ordinance could result in charge of misdemeanor trespassing as defined in South Carolina Code Section 16-11-520 if they refuse to leave the premises.
Exemptions. Face Coverings Shall Not Be Required:
- In outdoor or unenclosed areas appurtenant to Retail Establishments or Foodservice Establishments, social distancing at least six feet is possible and observed;
- For people whose religious beliefs prevent them from wearing a Face Covering;
- For those who cannot wear a Face Covering due to a medical or behavioral condition;
- For children under the age of five years old;
- For patrons of Foodservice Establishments while they are dining;
- 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, 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 involved in the repair or maintenance of infrastructure;
- While exclusively with members of a family or the same household, and no person other than such family or home is within the same enclosed area.
Mayor Rick Osbon has been diagnosed with the coronavirus. A statement from the mayor’s office says Osbon felt mild symptoms late last week. He was told of the positive test late Sunday. Mayor Osbon is self-quarantining and says a mask mandate would be the best way to keep people safe.
Photojournalist: Will Baker