HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. (WSAV) – Face coverings will now be required to be worn at all commercial businesses on Hilton Head Island.
The Hilton Head Town Council approved the mandatory mask policy on Monday morning, saying steps need to be taken “now” to protect the island and it’s citizens.
Under the new ordinance, all Hilton Head Island residents, tourists, and some workers will be required to wear face coverings in all commercial areas such as grocery stores, restaurants, bars, pharmacies, and retail stores. The ordinance goes into effect at 11:59 p.m. on Tuesday.
It will be a criminal misdemeanor to violate the ordinance with a penalties of up to a $500 fine or 30 days in jail.
“A mandate should only be used in extreme positions, and that’s where we are,” Councilwoman Tamara Becker said.
Councilman Glenn Stanford claims that 80% of the people who e-mailed the Town’s website to leave comments were in favor of the mask mandate. Councilman Bill Harkins says large local restaurant chains have also said they are in favor of the ordinance.
Sheriff PJ Tanner says he too supports the mandatory mask plan. He says however, it will be “nearly impossible” to enforce on the beaches and with restaurant patrons.
Tanner is urging other municipalities like Bluffton, Beaufort, Lady’s Island, and Port Royal to agree on similar guidelines if they pass a mask ordinance. He says this will make it easier for deputies to enforce.
The City of Beaufort also passed a similar mask ordinance Monday morning at an emergency meeting.
Beaufort City Council passed an ordinance requiring face coverings for any member of the public who enters a public building, including all stores and restaurants within city limits, beginning at 11:59 p.m. on Tuesday. Employees of these establishments must also wear masks.
Anyone who is unable to safely wear a face mask due to age or an underlying health condition, or who is unable to take the mask off without help from others is exempt from the ordinance. Face masks are also not required in personal vehicles or when in an enclosed space with only household members.
The City of Beaufort says that anyone who violates the mask ordinance will be warned and then may be fined $50.
Council members say this was a difficult decision, but necessary to protect the overall health of the community.
The Town of Bluffton is set to discuss a possible mask ordinance on Tuesday.
News 3 will have updates.