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City requires masks again; Orangeburg admin.: ‘It is just meant to protect the public’
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City requires masks again; Orangeburg admin.: ‘It is just meant to protect the public’

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Orangeburg City Council approved an emergency ordinance on Tuesday mandating face coverings be worn at all retail establishments and restaurants within the city limits.

The mask ordinance also requires staff and employees of retail establishments and restaurants within the city to wear masks while working in areas open to the public.

Staff must also wear masks when interactions with other staff is likely and social distancing cannot be observed.

The ordinance also requires masks to be worn in large gatherings in the city such as festivals and parades for the next 60 days.

The mask ordinance takes effect immediately.

“The council is putting this in place because of the strong uptick in COVID cases,” City Administrator Sidney Evering said. “It is not meant to be punitive. It is just meant to protect the public.”

Individuals who violate the ordinance could face up to a $25 fine and owners of establishments could face a fine of up to $100.

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Exemptions to the mask ordinance include outdoor, unenclosed areas at retail establishments or restaurants; those whose religious beliefs prohibit the wearing of a mask; those with a medical condition; children under the age of 2; in private or individual office settings and while in a family or household setting.

Individuals dining in restaurants are allowed to remove their masks when served their meals and drinks.

Gov. Henry McMaster ended South Carolina’s state of emergency declaration in May, saying that local governments could no longer use the declaration as justification for mask mandates.

Local governments are now required to find their own justifications for mask mandates.

While Orangeburg’s previous mask mandate ended, the city has continued to require masks in its buildings. The city's police have also been able to disperse large gatherings that pose a threat to public health and council has continued to be able to meet virtually.

Council unanimously voted to approve the mask mandate after an hour-long executive session Tuesday.

City Council originally announced it would discuss mask coverings entirely in open session. A revised agenda placed the subject matter in closed session.

Evering defended the topic being discussed behind closed doors, citing the potential legal ramifications of the ordinance in light of challenges faced in such cities such as Columbia.

Evering expressed his confidence that the city's mask ordinance would withstand legal scrutiny.

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