Charleston City Council voted in favor of a citywide mask mandate up for first reading during Tuesday night’s council meeting. The mandate would require residents to mask up when indoors around other people, with some exceptions.
“I don’t love the fact that we’re asked to do this. I don’t love the fact I have to vote for it,” said Councilman Mike Seekings. “But, I do like the fact that we can do a very small part on getting us back on the road of recovery.”
Griffin voiced concerns that the language included in the measure set dangerous precedent and allowed for abuse of penalties levied against those who do not abide by the mandate.
“This thing stinks. I’ve never seen an ordinance like this,” he said. “The most disgraceful thing about all of this is that there’s language in here that any person, so that would be an adult or a child, found to not be wearing a mask can be fined $100, $200, $500.”
Charleston mayor John Tecklenburg clarified that as a first reading, no such fines would be levied against anyone until it passes a second and third reading. The measure will likely be amended between readings. (Once a measure passes second reading, the third is usually a formality.)
The vote was taken following two presentations from local health care workers, including president and CEO of Roper St. Francis Healthcare Jeffrey DiLisi, who painted a grim picture of the hospital’s condition due to the current COVID surge.
“We are in our third and most dramatic surge in COVID-19 patients. We have seen higher numbers in the last couple of weeks than we’ve seen in any of the other two surges,” DiLisi said. “We don’t want to mask, but I think its’s something that we have to do keep everyone safe.”
The mask mandate will be up for second reading at the next City Council meeting Sept. 28. Tuesday’s meeting was recorded and is available to the city’s YouTube channel.