Conway City Council joined Horry County Tuesday night in extending its mask ordinance.
The current mask requirement was set to end Sept. 9, but council voted to extend it another month until Oct. 6, after City Administrator Adam Emrick said that will be the day after council has two more meetings, so there will be time to consider any future extensions.
To extend the mask ordinance, council had to extend its state of emergency proclamation another six months.
There were no changes mentioned for the mask ordinance that first went into effect in July for people in public places.
Printed information provided to council said, “Although not scientifically proven, the number of cases within Horry County and the City of Conway have decreased with the implementation of face covering ordinances.”
The ordinance requires customers to wear face coverings inside enclosed areas of any retail or food business; all retail staffs are required to wear while working in areas open to the general public and areas where they interact with other staff and social distancing of at least six feet can’t be met; all food service establishments must require their staffs to wear masks when working and customers must wear them when they enter a food serve establishment, but can take them off once they’re seated until dining is concluded.
They are not required outdoors or in unenclosed areas of business when people can be at least six feet apart. People whose religious beliefs forbid them or when medical or behavioral condition won’t allow it are exempt. Children under 5-years-old are not required to wear them, but parents should encourage them to wear them. They are not required in private, individual offices, when following the directions of police, when it isn’t practical or feasible to wear them such as getting dental care or while swimming or when only family members are present.
The fine is $25 for the first offense, but each day is another violation. Business owners can be fined $100 for each violation.
Too many violations can lead to businesses losing their occupancy or business licenses.
City Administrator Adam Emrick has said in the past that when police learn that someone isn’t following the mandate properly, they go to them and make an effort to educate them and encourage them to wear the masks.
The ordinance requires that people wear a uniform piece of cloth, fabric or other material that securely covers their noses and mouths and remains in place without the use of hands. It can include bandanas, medical masks, cloth masks, scarves and gaiters, but whatever the material, it must securely cover a person’s nose and mouth.
Although council didn’t talk much about COVID-19 when its members approved the extension of its facemask ordinance, its members did worry about how long it might last when they talked about a possible New Year’s Eve celebration on Conway’s Main Street.
Conway Downtown Alive manager Hillary Howard presented an idea to council about having a downtown celebration, complete with fireworks, live music, vendors and alcohol from 9 p.m.-12:30 a.m. on New Year’s Eve.
Her group hopes to welcome hundreds of people to Main Street between Third and Fourth avenues. If approved, the event will not require closing of the Main Street Memorial Bridge. When traffic leaves the bridge it will be routed to Third Avenue headed in either direction.
She told council the event will depend on S.C. Governor Henry McMaster allowing more than 250 people to gather.
It’s “nothing we’ve ever done before, but we think people are going to be ready to get rid of 2020,” Howard told council.
But council, with Mayor Barbara Blain-Bellamy and Councilwoman Jean Timbes being the most vocal, hedged on the idea eventually voting for planning for the event to be postponed.
Blain-Bellamy said she couldn’t be a party to approving the event today in light of the virus and where she fears it will be then.
Councilman William Goldfinch offered some support for the downtown group saying he doesn’t think anyone has been more cognizant of the present situation with the virus than Conway Downtown Alive, but the Mayor said 250 people is just too many.
Timbes said when people aren’t being allowed to have large funerals or weddings, she’d hate to approve a large event.
Blain-Bellamy said if things change she’ll be the first one to support the event.
“It’s a great idea,” she said.
Timbes said, “We got a long way to go. I just feel like we’re a little premature with this.”
Tuesday was 114 days until the event and Howard said she needs 120 to 190 days to plan it, pointing out that she must secure the fireworks and the music. Council suggested she work out contingencies in her contracts.
Council will reconsider the idea at its October 5th meeting hoping that COVID-19 numbers will be better then.
Although a private company is already planning a Halloween event in Downtown Conway, council approved a request Tuesday night from Conway Downtown Alive manager Hillary Howard to have a Halloween golf cart parade.
Halloween falls on Saturday this year and the parade is set for 11 a.m. starting at the city’s Public Safety Building on Ninth Avenue, turning right onto Laurel Street and ending in the area of the Cypress Inn.
Riders are expected to wear masks until they get into their carts. Howard says she’d like to see anywhere from 25 to 75 carts.
Blain-Bellamy said she hopes people gather in small family groups to watch the parade.
Council also approved through its consent agenda with no discusin, its Second Annual Under the Lights 5K for Dec. 9 from 4 p.m.-8 p.m.
The 5K will take place during the Celebration of Lights with organizers expecting about 150 to 200 runners and walkers. It will double as an advertisement for the Celebration of Lights.
Police and fire personnel will help and the Recreation Department will have volunteers along the race route and on hand for cleanup.
A number of roads will have to be closed for the race including Marina Drive, Laurel Street from Second Avenue to Elm Street, Second Avenue from Main Street to Laurel Street, Main Street from Third Avenue to Second Avenue, Third Avenue from Kingston Street to Main Street and Kingston Street between Third and Second avenues.