Mayor Benjamin: Everyone needs to do their part to edge out the COVID-19 pandemic

Mayor said mask ordinance still in place, but said another citywide curfew unnecessary at this point

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WOLO) — Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin said more needs to be done by all South Carolina citizens to curb the spread of COVID-19, saying everyone in South Carolina has a role to play in slowing the spread of the virus. 

Even though cases have declined in the last month, Mayor Benjamin told ABC Columbia that with a decline in testing numbers statewide and more people gathering together, that the finish line for this pandemic is not in sight just yet.

“I don’t even believe we’re at halftime yet,” Mayor Benjamin said.

In the last five months, more than 9,000 people in Richland County have tested positive for COVID-19, and at least 182 people have died from the virus.

Mayor Benjamin said his citizens have done a better job at taking the virus seriously since a citywide face-mask ordinance was put in place back in June. However, with tens of thousands of college students coming back to school this fall, he said it’s not the time to take the foot off the gas.

“We are always right where we started where we have to realize that this pandemic presents a unique opportunity for every citizen to realize our collective responsibility,” Mayor Benjamin said. 

The Mayor said the mask ordinance is still in place, and that on Thursday, the City Council will place harsher restrictions on rental properties to prevent wild house parties involving large groups of college students from taking place.

He also says his team will enforce Governor Henry McMaster’s (R-SC) executive orders, which include the halt of alcohol sales at bars and restaurants after 11 p.m. and limiting capacity at those establishments to 50% occupancy, but said there’s no need for another citywide curfew right now.

“It’s killing a fly with a sledgehammer. So if you’re trying to modify certain activities, you don’t necessarily need to apply rules to every single citizen. We want to be thoughtful and judicious and considerate that we use it in the most extraordinary way possible,” Mayor Benjamin said.

With flu season around the corner and children coming back to school, Mayor Benjamin said now more than ever that everyone needs to do their part by social distancing and avoiding large crowds.

“All the answers are before us, and we decide to participate for a period of time, if we decide to do it for a month together, then we can see a significant deceleration in the number of cases, and if we do that, then we can start participating in normal life again,” Mayor Benjamin said.

Mayor Benjamin said through a partnership with DHEC and Benedict College, there will be free COVID-19 testing from August 28 to September 30 at 1903 Two Notch Road. Anyone can come from 8 p.m. to 5 p.m. to get tested for COVID-19.

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