State epidemiologist Dr. Linda Bell said Wednesday that businesses and local leaders "would go a long way" by requiring masks in their jurisdictions, but that a piecemeal approach across the state wouldn't be implemented quickly enough to put a dent in the state's spiking infection rate.
But Gov. Henry McMaster said on Friday no such state law would be coming. Rather, he reiterated "in the strongest, most urgent terms" his frequent call that people should be responsible and wear masks to protect themselves and those they come into contact with.
"If cities have the mechanism to enforce it in their particular area that’s up to them. But a statewide mandate is not the way to do it," he said.
Since mid-June, South Carolina has passed every other southeastern state except Georgia in the rate of COVID-19 cases per capita.
"It would be much more effective if there was something we could do statewide," Bell said.
Citing Home Rule, Attorney General Alan Wilson said Wednesday that it's constitutional for cities to mandate masks locally. Gov. Henry McMaster has so far declined to enact a statewide regulation, though the Association of South Carolina Mayors has asked him to do so.
Here's what some local leaders have done:
Charleston called an emergency meeting on Thursday and voted to require masks for anyone inside a public building or in crowded outdoor areas where distancing isn't possible.
Leaders likened the temporary measure to an indoor smoking ban, saying they doubt livability officials will have to write a $50 fine for anyone who ignores a warning about the requirement. Businesses are responsible for ensuring their employees stay masked.
The restriction goes into effect July 1.
Clemson City Council unanimously voted to require masks beginning Thursday, saying wastewater testing indicated a local outbreak and that several businesses have had to shut down after exposure.
People who don't wear masks, or parents who don't ensure their children do so, are subject to a $25 fine. Businesses that don't make employees mask up could be fined $100.
The city has ordered masks to distribute.
The state capital's mask requirement went into effect on Friday, requiring anyone over 10 to cover their mouth and nose when within six feet of someone they don't live with.
Businesses face a $100 fine for each day they don't require employees to wear masks and individuals who refuse will face a $25 civil infraction fine.
Town Council voted unanimously against a mask requirement on Friday and Mayor Jane Darby said officials can't legislate personal responsibility. The council urged residents to wear masks regardless.
Greenville's unanimous vote on Monday made it the first Palmetto State city to require face coverings in grocery stores and pharmacies and by all retail employees. There's a $25 fine for anyone who's able to wear a mask and refuses.
A heated debate ended with a 4-3 vote against a mask requirement in Goose Creek's council meeting on Thursday.
Mayor Greg Habib voted against the ordinance, instead proposing a resolution to strongly encourage residents to wear masks in public, which was unanimously approved.
Habib passed responsibility on to the governor, saying the Association of South Carolina Mayors had requested a statewide mandate and that a local ordinance wouldn't make a dent in the state's spiking infection rate.
The city unanimously passed a resolution during an emergency council meeting on Friday urging people to wear a mask in public amid rising coronavirus cases in South Carolina.
Hanahan Mayor Christine Rainwater said resolutions can pass easier than a law and that they have the same effect in advising the public.
Isle of Palms
In a 6-2 vote, City Council determined masks must be worn starting July 1 in retail and food service establishments. Councilmen Jimmy Ward and Kevin Popson opposed, but Rusty Streetman, who voted against such a regulation earlier in the week, changed his tune on Friday.
“But I’ve got to say that, since then, with all the comments that have come in and the personal interactions I’ve had, I’m convinced we need to listen to the citizens of the Island,” Streetman said. “Our citizens want us to enact a mandatory face mask ordinance.”
Mount Pleasant has a meeting to discuss a possible mandate scheduled for Monday. Mayor Will Haynie said he's asked the town's emergency coordinator to compile data for the council to reference as they vote on an ordinance focused on masks in grocery stores and pharmacies.