Officials in Columbia, South Carolina, handed out more than 125 citations in three days to residents not wearing masks.
This “no tolerance” blitz was more than double the total number of citations the Columbia Fire Department has handed out since the city passed its mask ordinance in June, according to WYFF-4.
Prior to this weekend, Columbia Fire Chief Aubrey Jenkins said he and his team had only handed out about 50 citations, most of them during Halloween weekend.
But now the city is beginning to crack down ahead of the holiday season. The Columbia City Council even raised the citation fee for not wearing a mask from $25 to $100, and extended the mask mandate through the end of the month.
“It’s just alarming that people are still not adhering to wearing a mask, and there are still these lines forming,” Jenkins said. “You hate to give out citations, but we have been warning people for months.”
Jenkins warned that more citations are coming, and that he expects the number of fines handed out to increase even more on Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday.
“I don’t mind tipping my hand,” Jenkins told The State. “Yes, we are going to be out there.”
The point of the citations is not to punish people, Jenkins said, but to educate them.
“It’s not about writing tickets. It’s about getting people to look at the seriousness of what’s going on,” he explained.
Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin warned that he would introduce even stricter restrictions if residents did not obey the mask mandate.
“Citizens are sick and tired of reckless behavior as loved ones perish,” he said in a statement, according to WSCO-TV.
“COVID cases continue to rise and our economy is disrupted. Patience has run thin, and citations and penalties will accelerate if folks continue to flout the law. Please wear your mask.”