Winnsboro Town Council passes ordinance to require face masks be worn

WINNSBORO – In a special called meeting on Tuesday evening, the Winnsboro Town Council passed an emergency ordinance requiring face masks to be worn in retail establishments and restaurants. The order goes in to effect at 12:01 a.m., July 3 and will expire after 60 days. The order is renewable.

The ordinance applies to everyone six years of age and older.

The purpose of the ordinance, Mayor Roger Gaddy said, is to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. The ordinance notes that the S.C. attorney general issued a public statement on June 25 that said enacting local mask requirements is within the police power of municipalities and is not preempted by state law.

The ordinance states that face masks:

  1. must be worn by all customers while inside the enclosed area of any retail establishment or foodservice establishment,
  2. are required to be worn by staff of all retail establishments in areas open to the general public and where interactions with other staff are likely in areas where social distancing of at least six feet cannot be observed, and
  3. must be worn in all foodservice establishments where staff interacts with customers (including, without limitation, delivery personnel).

Masks are not required to be worn in outdoor or unenclosed areas appurtenant to retail establishments or foodservice establishments in which social distancing of at least six feet is possible and observed and for other specific reasons outlined in the ordinance, such as when eating in a restaurant or undergoing dental procedures.

Anyone violating the provisions of the ordinance by failing to wear a face mask when required shall be guilty of a civil infraction, punishable by a penalty of not more than $25.

Any responsible person violating the provisions of the ordinance by failing to require employees of a retail or foodservice establishment to wear a mask when required, may be subject to a $50 fine. Retail and foodservice establishments guilty of repeat offences could lose their business license and/or be declared a public nuisance, which may be abated by the Town of Winnsboro by restraining order, preliminary and permanent injunction or other means provided for by the laws of South Carolina.

Establishments and responsible persons shall have a duty to enforce the provisions of the ordinance only against employees of the establishment, and can not require that customers, visitors or other members of the general public wear face masks.

John Fantry, the town’s attorney, said the ordinance does not apply to the Courthouse, county government offices or other offices where elected officials preside. He also clarified that the ordinance does not require persons to wear masks while out on the streets, sidewalks or in their cars.

County Council Chairman Neil Robinson addressed council, saying that the county fully supports Winnsboro’s mask ordinance. He also said the county could not pass such an ordinance because only cities and towns, not counties, are granted this power under state law.