With the recent resurgence of COVID-19 cases driven by the highly contagious delta variant, the city of Bishopville is once again requiring masks be worn in public areas.
At Thursday's special called meeting, Bishopville City Council, with the absence of Councilman Edward Byrd, unanimously passed an ordinance to reinstate the mask ordinance, effective after noon on Friday, Aug. 20. Although Byrd was absent, he told City Administrator Greg McCutchen he is in favor of the mandate.
The ordinance, focusing more on businesses and other establishments rather than schools and churches, will require everyone to wear a face covering inside public areas to slow the spread of the delta variant. Mayor Grady Brown Sr. recommended that everyone "go the extra mile" to protect their loved ones.
State Rep. Will Wheeler, D-Bishopville, who represents Lee County as well as parts of Sumter and Kershaw counties, drafted the ordinance based on a model ordinance from Richland and Florence counties. Wheeler included some exemptions for those unable to safely wear a face covering because of age or an underlying health condition or for those unable to remove a face covering without assistance.
This decision comes during a period when South Carolina cities and counties are reinstating mask mandates that started during the height of the coronavirus pandemic last year. This third wave is already rivaling last winter, but health professionals are noting differences such as hospital beds filling with younger COVID-19 patients than ever before. The vast majority of them are unvaccinated.
Some of these municipalities either have taken steps to enforce a mandate or switch to virtual learning in schools as cases have soared.
As of the state's Department of Health and Environmental Control's data updated on Tuesday, there were 2,103 residents across Lee County to have tested positive for the virus and 66 deaths. The county's current 7-day moving average is back to levels reached in May and August 2020.
Just more than 46% of South Carolinians have been fully vaccinated. In Lee County, that count is at 36.8% of those eligible, though Sumter County still has a lower rate of vaccination completion. Both are among the lowest in the state when it comes to that rate.
There will be a $25 fine for anyone not wearing a mask where it is required, council members said. The ordinance will last until Oct. 18.
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