Midlands mask mandates return due to COVID surge
COLUMBIA, SC (WOLO) — Thousands of new COVID cases a day has prompted reactions from city leaders in the Midlands.
This week, Columbia, Cayce and West Columbia all announced mask mandates that are already in place or going into effect this week.
“It’s an issue. It’s real. Our hospitals are overwhelmed. They’re asking for our help,” said Cayce mayor Elise Partin.
After receiving a letter from Lexington Medical Center asking for a mask mandate, Mayor Partin and city council members complied.
Initially set to begin on Wednesday, the start of the mask mandate was pushed to Friday.
“We changed it because we wanted to make sure our businesses had plenty of time to hear about it, get their staff masked up and get their signs,” the mayor said. “We’ve had people start it already. They were excited about it actually, but it starts Friday morning.”
The cities hope to work with customers and businesses, but refusing to comply could come with a $25 to $100 fine.
“I would say that 90 percent of the people in the last two weeks have been coming in with a mask without me asking them to do so,” said Lainie Lewis, owner of State Street Trading Co. “All age groups, young to elderly.”
The business owner welcomes the mandate for West Columbia, which also begins Friday morning.
“I’m sorry it’s come to this. I wish more people would get vaccinated,” Lewis said. “We wouldn’t have to do this if people would get vaccinated. I’m getting used to it. I wish we didn’t have to do it. To me it’s not a bother if we can keep each other safe.”
However, like many other fully vaccinated people, she was getting used to going without a mask.
“I did stop wearing a mask. I went back to Florida where I’m from for July 4th,” Lewis said. “I have been vaccinated with both shots. Unfortunately, I came back with COVID.”
After recovering from the breakthrough case of COVID, she hopes others choose to get the vaccine and mask up.
“It won’t stop it in its tracks but it will slow it down,” the West Columbia business owner said. “I’m worried about the kids. The young kids are now getting it and getting really sick.”
“I don’t know if any of us have seen anything like this in our lifetime,” said Mayor Partin.
The mayor says she is in favor of vaccination mandates but has yet to explore that option for the city of Cayce.
The city of Columbia’s mask mandate went into effect on Wednesday and also includes a fine of up to $100 for non-compliance.