Since Columbia began restricting large groups and parties a few months ago, in its own Covid-19 restrictions, large groups and parties have continued.
According to a report by WIS News, the Columbia Police Department responded to 31 different large gatherings across Columbia from Sept. 25th through Oct. 20. Ten of these responses were given citations for violating Columbia’s restrictions on large groups and social distancing. These gatherings ranged in size from 8 people to 300.
It is evident from this past weekends look at Five Points that these City restrictions do not work.
Tuesday the City Counsel discussed modifying these restrictions due to the large number of students who have chosen still to gather in large numbers.
This report also stated that the At Large Columbia City Councilmember Howard Duvall stated the City of Columbia is considering “toughening the language” on it’s mask ordinance and raising the fine higher than it’s current $25. One option Duvall stated was raising the fine to $100.
Duvall was quoted as having said, “We are looking at strengthning that language to help students, that if you’re waiting in line, you can’t have 300 people waiting in line back to back. You need to have some social distancing. You need to wear a mask.”
The City’s current mask ordinance expires on November 15th, 2020.
City Councilman Will Brennan, stated that they are looking to get insights from Columbia-Richland Fire Chief Aubrey Jenkins to help address the issue and find solutions. Jenkins commented that now may be the time for stricter enforcement of code violations and more citations. Jenkins went on to state that the lack of social responsiblity in the large gatherings is frustrating.
“You are preaching the same message over and over and over again and it comes to the point where at what point do we quit educating and start taking more evasive actions and it’s probably at that point right now,” stated Jenkins.
The University of South Carolina has issued 59 disciplinary actions against students for violating social distancing guidelines. And stated they are partnering with the City and County government, including law enforcement and Private property owners to curb the mass student gatherings.
The Columbia Police department in their statement to WIS News stated, “To address a more specific question, it’s important to point out that the success of the ordinance isn’t measured by citations, but rather by community compliance and assistance.” This was in reference to WIS News asking why only 10 citations were issued out of the 31 gatherings.
It seems that the City Police Department has a better understanding to the issue than City Councilmembers, who simply want to raise fines for financial gains.
It’s also important to remember that anyone with a medical issue that prevents them from wearing a mask can not be asked about their medical condition under HIPAA Laws. But on the other side of the coin businesses may prevent entry to their business as they are considered private property.
It’s also interesting to note that these government and education entities are focusing strictly on Students.
It has been suggested that the City of Columbia put the mask ordinance to a public vote to see if the citizens of Columbia want to continue their mask ordinance, or end it as many others have.