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If your COVID-19 mask ordinance is about to expire, how do you extend or renew it? Many municipalities adopted mask requirements by emergency ordinance under SC Code Section 5-7-250(d). The section allows a city or town council to adopt an emergency ordinance on a single reading without any public notice or public hearing requirements. However, ordinances adopted in this way automatically expire after 60 days.

There are three ways to extend or renew an emergency ordinance. First, the original emergency ordinance may have specifically allowed for renewals or extensions. The Municipal Association’s model mask ordinance did so in Section 10, which states that the council may extend the term “for one or more additional terms, each of no more than sixty days, provided that the total duration of the Emergency Term shall not exceed six months without enacting an ordinance in the ordinary course.” If your local mask ordinance contains this provision, you may extend the original ordinance by a single reading of a new emergency ordinance, subject to the maximum duration.

Second, even without this extension provision, the council may simply enact a new emergency ordinance under SC Code Section 5-7-250(d) by considering the continued COVID-19 crisis as a “separate and distinct” emergency. The governor has followed this approach is declaring multiple separate and distinct states of emergency for the COVID-19 pandemic. The current declaration, in Executive Order 2020-48, is the 10th such declaration.

Third, the council may adopt the mask requirement by the ordinary procedures requiring two readings and compliance with the SC Freedom of Information Act. Because the need for local mask requirements appears likely to continue for at least another 60 days, the Association recommends this approach. During the term of an original 60-day emergency ordinance, the council should have time to plan for notice and two readings of a continuing mask ordinance.

If the council chooses to adopt a permanent mask ordinance, it should include a sunset provision. It might provide, for example, that it automatically terminates when there is no longer a statewide emergency declaration. Alternatively, it could provide for a definite term of more than 60 days.

For more information, contact one of the Association’s field services managers Charlie Barrineau (cbarrineau@masc.sc or 803.354.4751) or Jeff Shacker (jshacker@masc.sc or 803.354.4750).