Sumter City Council passes mask resolution; non-binding request encourages face coverings amid COVID-19 surge


Following the surge of the COVID-19 cases across the U.S., Sumter City Council presented a resolution Tuesday to encourage people to wear face coverings in retail, food and other Sumter establishments.

The resolution recommends Sumterites, nonvaccinated and vaccinated alike, follow guidelines from the federal Center for Disease Control, Gov. Henry McMaster and the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control's wear face coverings when out in the community.

In July 2020, the City of Sumter enacted a mask mandate, but that mandate was lifted in April of this year as city residents started getting vaccinated and COVID-19 numbers declined.

However, many still remain unvaccinated, and the Delta variant has brought COVID-19 cases back up in recent weeks.

"We went through this last year," Mayor David Merchant said to council. "As we all care about our citizens and those in our community, try to get out in front. Continue to encourage as a resolution and us as a body, continuing to encourage and really stress and help advocate that our citizens be proactive and protect themselves and others."

Statewide, new case numbers are back to where they were last summer after having declined to levels seen only at the very beginning of the pandemic. In Sumter County, levels are slightly worse, reaching levels from December 2020 and this February.

Deaths remain low, though hospitalizations are again beginning to strain hospitals. In Sumter, 178 people have died from COVID-19, and 9,890 have tested positive for the virus among more than 8,700 deaths and 512,400 confirmed cases statewide.

In a state where less than 45% of residents have been fully vaccinated, Sumter County has the fourth-lowest rate of vaccination completion, though it has the 15th largest population of those aged 12 and therefore eligible.

Council unanimously approved the resolution. Councilman Thomas Lowery was absent.