Charleston City Council adopted a face mask ordinance that took effect July 1, mandating a best-practices recommendation for people to wear face coverings in places where they could interact with others and spread COVID-19.
While there are still some who object to mask mandates, many Charlestonians say they are in full support of it.
“I think it’s about time people start taking this seriously,” said West Ashley resident Mary Garner during an interview outside a big box retailer. “Our numbers have been going crazy lately, and I think this is the first step in getting them back down to where they were.”
Most folks seemed relatively ambivalent to the rule, saying they had been wearing masks since the onset of the pandemic and the recommendations, so a mandate had little impact on them, they said.
Others thought a mandate takes things a bit too far.
“People are a lot more compassionate than the folks in charge want you to think,” said a West Ashley man who did not give his name. “Most of us have been wearing our masks every day, and to now say, ‘You have to wear it or there will be penalties,’ just seems wrong. You can’t legislate kindness. Just let people be kind.”
Outside of Charleston, shoppers' opinions were a little more mixed, with about a fifth of people still opting against mask-wearing.
Jenna Jones of Moncks Corner said she took her mask off at the end of her 8-hour shift and decided to do her shopping without it.
"It’s a personal preference," she said, adding that it should also be left up to businesses to decode mask policy.
Keyana Mazyck of Moncks Corner said she is always wears her mask.
“Too many people getting sick and dying,” she said. “I wear a mask to keep not just myself safe but everyone else around me.”
Mazyck said that she thought more people getting sick and dying would encourage more mask use, but “honestly that’s not been helpful.”
Paul Haggenmiller of Cross said he began wearing a mask recently.
“It seems as though there is a little more spread going on,” he said.
He called mask wearing a “personal choice,” and said that some situations where you cannot avoid crowds it’s “common sense” to wear a mask.
Arguments against the mandate included a lack of understanding of the enforcement of the rule.
“I don’t think any city should make a rule that they can’t reasonably enforce,” said West Ashley resident Chase Loyd. “This is one of those rules. If I take my mask off right now, who is here to apprehend me? It’s unrealistic.”
Mandates from Charleston and other local governments comes as cases of COVID-19 continue to rise, with new case counts lingering over 1,000 per day.
Charleston’s mask ordinance stipulates that every person within the city must wear a face mask while:
- At a restaurant or retail stores, including salons, barber shops, grocery stores, pharmacies or other buildings open to the public.
- Interacting with people in outdoor spaces, including curbside pickup, delivery, and service calls.
- While providing public or commercial transportation services, including tours.
- While walking in public where maintaining a six-foot distance between people is not possible.
- When participating in a permitted or allowable gathering.
Some are exempt from the rule, such as those who are unable to safely wear a mask due to age, an underlying health condition or are unable to remove the face covering without assistance from others; and children under the age of 10, so long as their parents take reasonable precautions to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus.
Several other localities, including Mount Pleasant, Isle of Palms, Sullivan's Island, Kiawah Island, and Folly Beach have enacted their own ordinances, as has Dorchester County.
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