City of Sumter to vote on mask requirement Friday afternoon


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Sumter City Council will hold an emergency meeting at 3 p.m. today to decide whether to require the public to wear face coverings in certain circumstances.

Early this week, when a growing number of South Carolina cities were pushing for a mask requirement, Mayor Joe McElveen said he was researching the authority of mayors to require masks to be worn in public.

McElveen issued a proclamation Wednesday urging community members to wear face masks in public, noting that health care professionals say it is an effective way to reduce the spread of COVID-19, a highly contagious respiratory virus.

Columbia, Greenville, Clemson and Charleston have also approved mask requirements.

The measures come as both hospitalizations and the rate of positive COVID-19 tests are continuing to rise, often breaking record highs. State Epidemiologist Linda Bell said this week the virus is spreading quickly and that it might be time for a statewide mask rule.

Gov. Henry McMaster has been against such a rule.

By law, it is required that notice of special meetings be posted and sent to media at least 24 hours in advance. While the agenda was sent to The Sumter Item at 10:20 a.m. today, well within 24 hours, city officials pointed to a statute that exempts "emergency meetings of public bodies."

According to city law, the mayor can impose a meeting during a state of emergency if it is considered a public crisis, disaster, rioting, civil disturbance, catastrophe or other reasons. In this circumstance, council can call a special meeting within 24 hours after a state of emergency.

This came into play earlier this month during protests over the extrajudicial police killing of George Floyd and worldwide outcry over racial injustice in the United States when the mayor, then city council, imposed a nightly curfew, which they canceled a few nights later.

Members of the public cannot physically attend the meeting, but they can watch it live at