Rae Page mask pic

Rae Page of Kingstree shops in Family Dollar. Page has been wearing a mask while shopping since June but all citizens will be doing the same or risk getting a ticket. The passage of the ordinance is in response to the state seeing a rise in COVID-19 cases.                       

Photo by Michaele Duke

During a July 9, special called meeting, Williamsburg County Council passed an emergency ordinance requiring citizens to wear face coverings in certain circumstances.  The ordinance takes effect July 13. The vote was 4-1 with Councilmember Joe Lee voting against. Councilmembers Andy McKnight and Eddie Woods were not present.

For 60 days, citizens will be required to wear facial coverings in retail establishments such as grocery stores and pharmacies. The business does not have the responsibility to report the requirement but must post it at all entrances.

Barbershops, salons, pharmacies and grocery stores owners must require their employees to wear a facial covering at all time when face-to-face with the public. Any person, who is unable to wear a mask due to age, an underlining health condition or unable to remove the mask without assistance, is exempt from the ordinance. Anyone failing to comply with the ordinance can be fined of not more than $100. Business owners who don’t comply also run the risk of having their license suspended or revoked.

“This is in the interest of public health and safety,” said Williamsburg County Supervisor Tiffany Wright. ”We felt it is necessary to take additional steps in ensuring we protect our citizens as well as our employees for the increase spread of COVID-19.”

Nearly all counties in South Carolina have imposed the new mandate in light of increasing COVID-19 cases. As of July 8, DHEC reported 445 confirmed cases, 2,734 estimated cases and 15 deaths in Williamsburg County. Cases are most likely to increase as free testing continued July 10, July 14, July 15 and July 16 at several sites in the county.

South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson said a city can pass this type of ordinance. He went on to say state constitution and state laws have given cities the authority to pass these types of ordinances under the doctrine of Home Rule. 

Wilson said the basic premise behind the Home Rule doctrine is to empower local governments (ie: towns, cities and counties) to effectively govern themselves without interference from state 

government. There are limits to this power.

Wilson also said he understands that some people are upset about the ordinances, which are being enforced in cities such as Charleston, Sumter and Greenville. “Just because you believe something is bad government does not make it unconstitutional government,” said Wilson in a June 24, statement. “Sometimes the remedy for a bad government action is not a legal remedy but a political remedy at the ballot box.” The ordinance can be read on the county website at www.williamsburgcounty.sc.gov or by clicking on the link below.