COLUMBIA (AP) - A three-day ticket blitz in South Carolina's capital city brought 130 citations for going unmasked in public places despite the coronavirus pandemic - and the fire chief says more are coming.
"I don't mind tipping my hand," Columbia Fire Chief Aubrey Jenkins told The State. "Yes, we are going to be out there."
He spoke Sunday, the sixth day in a row that South Carolina had reported more than 1,000 infections of the new coronavirus. Monday made it seven, with 1,095 positive tests and a total of 194,902. Five deaths from COVID-19 were reported Monday, bringing the total to 3,987.
Columbia passed a mask ordinance in June and beefed it up this month, including a $100 fine. Before the weekend blitz, only about 50 citations had been issued.
Nearly all of last week's citations were in Columbia's Five Points nightlife area, though department personnel also checked other areas including hospitality districts and big box stores, Jenkins said Sunday.
Mayor Steve Benjamin said 27 citations were issued Thursday night, 64 on Friday night and 39 on Saturday night.
"Over the course of when the ordinance first came into effect, we hadn't been writing many citations," Jenkins told The State. "We were just educating and warning people."
But the disease's recent spike requires action, he said.
"It's not about writing tickets. It's about getting people to look at the seriousness of what's going on," Jenkins added.
The mayor said, "Citizens are sick and tired of reckless behavior as loved ones perish. COVID cases continue to rise, and our economy is disrupted. Patience has run thin, and citations and penalties will accelerate if folks continue to flout the law. Please wear your mask."
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