Man Wearing Mask, Suit

A man wears a mask at a recent event in Aiken. A mask requirement goes into effect in New Ellenton later this week.

The city of New EllentonĀ has officially instituted a mask-wearing requirement to help stymie the spread of the novel coronavirus, a defensive play that comes as the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases statewide continues to swell.

The mandatory wearing of masks or face coverings inside all New Ellenton public buildings and facilities, as well as restaurants, stores, pharmacies and laundromats within city limits, begins at noon Friday. Medical or cloth masks, bandanas, scarves or gaiters that stay over the mouth and nose will do.

The mask requirement will automatically expire "as of the sixty-first day following the date of enactment," according to the emergency ordinance passed by New Ellenton City Council on Monday, but can be extended.

The measure means restaurant and store workers will need to wear face coverings as well.

Exemptions, though, are baked in: Face coverings aren't required when eating or when dining outdoors with physical distancing; aren't required for those with related medical or behavioral conditions; aren't required in private, individual offices; and aren't required when complying with directions from police.

Violating the ordinance is considered a civil infraction, punishable by a $50 fine.

Both Aiken, New Ellenton's neighbor to the north, and the Savannah River Site, New Ellenton's nuclear neighbor to the south, have instituted some form of mask or face-covering requirement.

New Ellenton City Council member Ron Reynolds said the ordinance aims to protect the community, in general, and the health of the city's citizens.

More than 73,000 cases of COVID-19 and 1,200 virus-related deaths had been confirmed in South Carolina as of Tuesday evening. More than 1,000 of those cases had been traced to Aiken County.

Colin Demarest covers the SRS, DOE, its NNSA and government, in general. Support his crucial reporting and local journalism, in general, by subscribing. Follow Colin on Twitter: @demarest_colin.