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West Columbia on board with tough face covering ordinance too

West Columbia, SC (Paul Kirby) - During its July 7, 2020 meeting, the City of West Columbia City Council passed an emergency ordinance requiring face coverings in certain establishments in the city. The ordinance goes into effect at 6:00 a.m. on Friday, July 10, 2020, and expires on the 61st day after it was passed. Here’s what the ordinance says.

All people entering a foodservice establishment, retail establishment, or city property must wear a face covering while inside the buildings or facilities. That’s a little tougher than surrounding ordinances in Lexington County. Food service establishments are defined in the ordinance as a business in the city that sells prepared food for dine in, carry out, or through a drive-thru. For good measure they also threw in bars, taverns, and all other places that serve alcoholic beverages by the drink.Even city employees who have not been wearing a face covering will have to now.

All foodservice establishments and retail establishments within the city must also require every employee to wear a face covering at all times if they have face-to-face interaction with the public or other employees or where social distancing of at least six feet cannot be observed at all times.

The words retail establishment in West Columbia is very well defined. It covers everything from a clothing store, shoe store, a place that sells jewelry, luggage, hardware or home improvement stores, book and craft stores, music stores, liquor stores, close contact businesses like a hair salon or barbershop, and even a doctor’s office or any medical facility. The list is pretty long, and it really has just about every type of place that deals with a customer face to face. The entire ordinance is attached by link at the bottom of this story. To see all of it in the ordinance just click the link and look closely at Section 2 and particularly Paragraph viiii and parts B, C, and D.

Businesses where masks are required must place a “Notice” like a poster, placard, or notification, which must be at least 8.5”x11”, the size of a regular piece of printer paper not a Post It Note, in a conspicuous place notifying the public of the requirement to wear a face covering.

What it doesn’t include is a private office, your car, a private home, a wholesale space like a large warehouse that doesn’t sell to the public and such. The city owned property would certainly cover parks and playgrounds, the Riverwalk, the amphitheater, and even the sidewalks owned by the city. You really don’t enter a sidewalk, but they probably mean those too.

Now, let’s get to the exemptions. Face coverings will not be required by any person who is unable to safely wear a face covering due to age or an underlying health condition or who is physically unable to remove the face covering without the assistance of someone else. Kids 10 years of age or under are exempt and anyone whose religious beliefs prevent them from wearing a face covering or mask doesn’t have wear one either.

Again, it specifically says private or individual offices are exempt and in places where it is not feasible to wear a face covering. This includes someone who’s receiving oral health services, swimming, doing some sort of athletic activities, and while they are eating in a place that serves prepared foods and beverages in a food service establishment. If you don’t know by now, food service establishments were defined a few paragraphs ago.

Police officers, firefighters, and other first responders don’t have to wear one when it’s not practical or they’re engaged in a public safety matter or during an emergency. Working around the station and when it is practical, mask up folks!

Now if a food service establishment has the ability to isolate customers from employees and maintain social distancing, they may request a waiver of the covering requirements. You have to do that in writing on forms that will be available from the city. You must submit those for registration and filing with the city. Copies of waiver forms and registration will be available via the City’s website: Grocery stores, pharmacies, hair salons, nail salons, barber shops, personal hygiene establishments, and medical offices are not eligible for that exemption.

Nobody shall be required to tell anyone why they are exempt from the face covering policy or show any actual evidence as to their individual qualification for any exemption. This covers West Columbia and the businesses from violating the federal government’s HIIPA laws that say you don’t have to disclose personal information about your health if you don’t want to. I would assume this was also done to respect other laws regarding freedom of religion and other things. This sound pretty smart if you think about it. We don’t want any lawsuits over this right? Just don’t lie and say you’re exempt if you’re not. That’s a lie and we should all have learned not to lie as a child.

West Columbia also doesn’t require anyone to become a face coverings cop and you shouldn’t. It’s just not your business to mind someone else’s business. They did set up a special “Hotline” for people with complaints about violations. That number is 803-939-8627.

To find the full ordinance, click this link and have fun reading it yourself. LINK

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