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SC city can give COVID-19 face mask fines with no warning

A South Carolina tourist spot can now issue fines without warning to people who don’t comply with its face covering mandate.

Charleston leaders approved the updated policy, which could cause first-time violators to pay $100, video of Tuesday’s city council meeting shows.

The council also voted to extend its mask ordinance, requiring people to cover their faces in public through Sept. 25.

The ordinance has exceptions, including for young children and people with certain religious or health considerations, according to agenda documents. Face coverings also aren’t required in private vehicles or when people are eating or drinking.

Charleston’s original mask policy was approved in June, when the number of coronavirus infections reached record highs in South Carolina. In recent days, statewide case counts have dropped, though officials think about 86% of residents who get the virus aren’t tested, The State reported.

The new mask policy was under discussion after Charleston leaders said people, including those spending time in areas popular with travelers, have been spotted without masks.

“Removing the exception for providing a first warning to each individual will not only be beneficial with consistent compliance but in my view will be definitely instrumental in contributing to the slowing of the spread of COVID-19,” Dan Riccio, director of livability and tourism, said during Tuesday’s meeting.

To help reduce the risk of transmission, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urges everyone to wear masks in public spaces and around people who don’t live with them. That’s because the virus can spread through droplets released from the body when a person who is sick talks, coughs or sneezes, according to health officials.

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Simone Jasper is a reporter covering breaking stories for The News & Observer and real-time news in the Carolinas.

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