Manning council to reconsider face mask requirement


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MANNING - Manning officials tabled an ordinance Tuesday afternoon that would require individuals to wear a face covering at public venues inside the city. On Thursday, they will have a second meeting to decide on the ordinance.

Manning City Council members Sherry A. Welle, Julius Dukes and Ervin Davis voted to table the discussion until some questions were answered while Councilman Clayton Pack voted in opposition to tabling the matter.

Council members and Mayor Julia A. Nelson agreed to look over the wording in an ordinance versus a resolution and have another special-called meeting after they are able to review notes from the discussion.

A special-called meeting has been scheduled for 4 p.m. Thursday to consider an emergency ordinance requiring individuals to wear face coverings in retail and food service establishments, a requirement appearing to be similar to Sumter's mandate.

The two issues that stymied a vote on the ordinance at Monday's meeting revolved around requiring masks to be worn inside food service establishments and the issuance of a fine for individuals who do not abide by the ordinance.

Welle told council members she doesn't think individuals needed to wear face masks inside restaurants because they would eventually need to remove them to eat.

Welle said restaurant owners told her that individuals dining at their businesses would frequently leave their masks lying on the ground outside their businesses or on the floor inside their restaurants.

"Maybe we need to add language (to the ordinance) asking restaurant owners to work with us," Welle added. "Some will like it and some won't, but citizens need to know this will be for the betterment of the entire community."

A second issue that held up a vote on Monday was the issuance of a fine for noncompliance.

"We shouldn't put forth a fine at this time," Davis said. "I think this will bring hardships to some residents. I believe a verbal recognition is sufficient right now."

Dukes said he agreed with Welle and Davis.

"A $25 fine is a lot for some people," Dukes said. "Some are not able to pay fines. Some really can't pay their water bills or light bills."

Similar concerns were brought up on Tuesday by Bishopville City Council members. They ended up unanimously passing a mask requirement for those inside food service and retail establishments for anyone over the age of 8. Sumter's mandate for face coverings went into effect on July 3 and carries a $50 penalty for noncompliance.

Pack compared the issuance of fines for not wearing the face masks to when fines were first implemented for people not wearing seatbelts.

"We need to make this serious so that people will want to wear masks," Pack added.

Pack said he wants to do "what's best for our community."

Nelson asked council members to read the ordinance and come back with a decision.

"What people are doing now is not working," Nelson added. "We have a responsibility."

On Wednesday, the state Department of Health and Environmental Control data included yet again new record highs for the number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients and the percent of tests coming back positive.

There were 1,404 beds being used by virus patients as of Wednesday, and 21% of the tests that came back the day before were positive, both trends that continue to increase that public health officials point to as more serious than only attributing increased cases to increased testing.

DHEC also announced 1,537 new confirmed cases statewide Wednesday and 38 deaths. The state agency noted the uncommonly large number of deaths in one day includes some victims' deaths that were delayed in being reported to DHEC since June 24. Health care facilities and providers are supposed to report all COVID-19-related deaths to DHEC by phone within 24 hours.

Since June 18, the first day more than 1,000 new cases were reported, June 20-22 and July 6 were the only days that saw less than 1,000 new cases per day. Eight days since June 18 have seen more than 1,500 new cases per day.

The Sumter Item's Kayla Green contributed to this report.