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Sumter City Council will hold a special meeting at 11 a.m. on Wednesday to decide whether to require the public to wear face coverings in certain circumstances.
The council held a special emergency meeting to discuss the matter on Friday, but all but one member voted to defer the decision for five days because they said they felt they did not have enough time to consider how requiring face masks could affect community members.
Sumter’s proposed ordinance would require customers and staff to wear face coverings in retail and food service establishments, as the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and state Department of Health and Environmental Control have recommended as a means of preventing an infected person — who can be contagious without showing symptoms — from spreading COVID-19. It would include restaurants, drive-throughs and anywhere that sells food, as well as grocery stores, convenience stores, pharmacies, liquor stores, laundromats and any business that sells goods or services.
If passed by a two-thirds vote, a violation can result in a $50 fine.
However, face coverings would not be required for the following: outdoor or unenclosed areas of retail stores or restaurants; for people whose religious beliefs prevent them from wearing a face covering; for those who cannot wear a face covering due to a medical or behavioral condition; for children under 8 years old; for restaurant patrons while eating; in private, individual offices; when complying with directions of law enforcement officers; in settings where it is not practical or feasible to wear a face covering, including while receiving dental services or while swimming; and while exclusively with members of a family or the same household.
The meeting Friday followed a stream of South Carolina cities that have approved mask requirements last week, even though Gov. Henry McMaster has been against the requirement.
The last three days have seen the three highest single-day case counts in the state since the pandemic began, and hospitalizations of patients with of suspected of having the virus are at an all-time high.
Council set the followup special meeting for Wednesday. Members of the public cannot physically attend the meeting, but they can watch it live at www.youtube.com/CityofSumter.
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