USC, Fire Chief Admit Stadium Mask Enforcement Limits | Athletic Business

USC, Fire Chief Admit Stadium Mask Enforcement Limits

The University of South Carolina sent an email to students Sept. 15 outlining that Williams-Brice Stadium falls under the “crowded indoor spaces” guideline in the city of Columbia's mask mandate, a 30-day policy that went into effect Sept. 8 to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19. To date, most major college football venues have required face coverings only within their respective stadiums' indoor spaces, such as restrooms.

As reported by The Herald of Rock Hill, USC’s email stated that the “city of Columbia is solely responsible” for enforcing the mandate, and those not wearing masks could be fined up to $100. However, enforcement could prove challenging in crowds likely to approach 70,000 fans for the Gamecocks' two home games that fall within the current mandate's window — this Saturday's SEC opener against Kentucky and next week's non-conference game against Troy.

“It is mandated by the city and enforceable by the fire marshal,” South Carolina athletic director Ray Tanner told WNKT's Todd Ellis before Saturday’s game against Georgia in Athens. “I’m sure we will learn a lot more about it this week. As you would expect in a football stadium, it would be nearly impossible to enforce.

“I think everyone should be vaccinated and I encourage masking. But it is certainly is going to be an environment in a college football stadium that will be difficult to have in an enforceable situation.”

Columbia fire chief Aubrey Jenkins said that it wouldn’t be possible for the three city fire marshals present on a game day to be posted at each gate to check for masks, or for them to walk around the stadium writing citations for mask noncompliance. One of those fire marshals stays in the north end zone near the video board from which fireworks are launched during the game.

“The city of Columbia does have an ordinance that everybody should have a mask on. However, it’ll be literally impossible, or next to impossible, for us to enforce it,” Jenkins told Columbia-based newspaper The State, as reported by The Herald. “We’re not going to be walking around the stadium telling people to put their masks on because it’s literally impossible for us to do it.”

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