Charleston to consider dropping warning for violating face covering ordinance

Charleston to consider dropping warning for violating face covering ordinance
After Tuesday’s Charleston City Council meeting, anyone stopped on the street without a face covering could be hit with a fine without a warning. (Source: Live 5/File)

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - After Tuesday’s Charleston City Council meeting, anyone stopped on the street without a face covering could be hit with a fine without a warning.

City Council will consider removing the warning, which would mean the first violation would result in a $100 fine.

Leaders in Charleston say the main difficulty with the current ordinance is its nearly impossible to issue a citations to someone walking on the street without a mask. And recently, officers have been seeing more and more people not wearing a face covering.

Right now, in the City of Charleston, law enforcement officers are required to give individuals a warning for not wearing a mask before they can give them a ticket. But at Tuesday’s council meeting, the city is voting to remove that requirement. Charleston Director of Livability and Tourism Dan Riccio says enough time has passed since the law was put into place, that citizens should not be disregarding it.

“Not a lot of people are wearing masks. We are funneling complaints every day,” Riccio said. “We’re observing the violations every day. But with the exception of having to give the people involved one warning, has been hampering our enforcement and slowing it down.”

City officials say they’ve handed out about 150 warnings to businesses, plus 20 court summons after those warnings, in the last two months. But they aren’t able to do the same with people on the street, because there isn’t a database to prove they have been issued a warning.

Riccio also says the irony is over 95% of the people law enforcement officers are approaching do have a mask on them, they just aren't wearing them.

"They are either clutching the mask in their hand, or have it tucked away in their pockets. And we're like, if you're going to have them please wear them. That's the importance of this ordinance."

Riccio says city officials have also noticed more tourists in town, many of which are not wearing masks.

The first fine would be $100, and names will be put in the database. The fine goes up to $200 for the second offense, and $500 for every time after that.

If the amendment is approved at Tuesday’s meeting, it will go into effect immediately.

City leaders will also be extending the emergency ordinances related to COVID 19 another 60 days, but they say they are not looking to implement a curfew in Charleston.

Charleston City Council will meet at 5 p.m.

Council will also discuss a change that would apply to Charleston’s horse carriage industry. Last week, the Charleston Tourism Commission unanimously approved a new law that would require carriage horse owners to attach their horses to a town-permitted structure while hitching or unhitching them from carriages.

Originally proposed by the Charleston Carriage Association for Responsible Equine Safety, which is made up of the city’s three largest carriage companies, the new safety measures require horses to be anchored to a physical barrier by safety ties that are attached to a harness worn under the horse’s bridle, a release from the organization states.

The proposed change followed an incident in July in which a carriage company’s draft horse was able to run from its barn while still attached to an empty carriage. A veterinarian determined the horse’s injuries were so severe that he needed to be euthanized.

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