Lexington, SC (Paul Kirby) – The Town of Lexington’s town council passed an emergency ordinance Thursday afternoon regarding the wearing of a face covering or mask as the COVID-19 coronavirus spikes upward across South Carolina again. It requires people to wear a mask while inside retail businesses in the Town of Lexington. It went into effect immediately.
Like many local ordinances it quickly was misconstrued by people who would paraphrase it, making it into something it just is not! It’s very specific about what it does mandate and what it doesn’t. There are plenty of exceptions and all of them make sense.
First, it doesn’t say you have to wear a mask anytime you are in the town. It doesn’t require one when walking on its streets, driving in your car, or generally going about your daily routine in your office or home. Anyone who says that just hasn’t taken the time to read the ordinance. You can stop and do just that by following this LINK.
What does it say? It’s pretty easy to follow if you skipped reading it yourself. It says if you are in grocery stores, pharmacies, big box stores, and other retail establishments within the town’s limits where employees interact with the public, you must wear a face covering. It also says that the retail establishment’s staff must wear a face covering when they are working in areas that are open to the general public or where they may interact with other employees and six feet of social distancing cannot be observed. These businesses must also display proper signage at every entrance giving notice of these requirements. It requires the businesses‘ management to enforce this, so if you aren’t wearing a face covering, you don’t fit one of the exceptions, and an employee or the management ask you to cover up or leave, don’t get mad. These folks are just doing their jobs!
It does NOT require you to wear face covering in other businesses like a manufacturing facility, a warehouse, an office, or any other place that’s not a retail business. It only encourages the wearing of face coverings when social distancing is not possible; Again, it says encourage not require. Even in retail businesses, you don’t have to have one on in areas like storerooms, breakrooms, bathrooms, or any other place of this nature as long as you can stay that all important six feet from everyone else.
There are a lot of reasonable exceptions to this law. If you are outdoors or in an unenclosed area where you can maintain that six feet of distance between you and someone else, no mask is required. If it’s against your religion to wear one or if you have a medical or behavioral condition like COPD or anxiety that would prevent you from wearing one, no face covering is required. If you have a child under the age of 10 whose accompanying adult has made a “reasonable effort” to try and make them wear the face covering but they just won’t leave it on, they are exempt from wearing one too. They may need a good dose of your legal choice of discipline for the child when you get them home, but the ordinance doesn’t say they have to wear one.
They also aren’t requiring you to wear one in your office or if you are receiving goods or services that would prevent the wearing of a face covering. This might be at the dentist office or doing something like having a nice swim in a pool just to name a few. It doesn’t say the word restaurant at all, but one could assume you’d wear one right up to the point of beginning to eat or drink. It would be comical to see someone try that activity while covering their face. Last, but certainly not least, if you are interacting with law enforcement officer and he or she tells you to remove your face covering, you better comply.
You know what else it doesn’t say? It doesn’t say you have the right to try to enforce this if you see someone you think is violating this ordinance. That’s a good way to start trouble! The person may meet one of the exemptions or they may just not know the rules yet. If you do say something, be polite. It's probably best to let an employee or the management remind that person or people about the rules.
Likewise, if someone reminds you of the rules and you blow up, scream, yell, or curse them out, you could be considered disorderly in public and you can get arrested for that. The police officer may be wearing a mask while that happens, but it certainly could happen. If someone nicely brings the ordinance to your attention because your face isn’t covered, why not try something like polite like, “Thank you, I’m aware of the law,” and move on. After all, even if it is 2020, manners and southern grace shouldn’t be completely dead.