Columbia City Council approves state of emergency ordinance regarding spread of the Delta variant

COLUMBIA, SC (WOLO)– Thursday morning, Columbia City Council held an emergency meeting where they approved Mayor Steve Benjamin’s declaration of  state of emergency. Officials say the order comes amid the recent spread of the COVID-19 Delta variant, particularly concerning the impact on children.

Tens of thousands of students are heading back to school this month, and the mayor announced a mandatory mask mandate Wednesday for all 40 elementary and middle schools, public or private, along with daycare centers within city limits. He says students under 12 years old who are unable to be vaccinated, are still at risk, along with their educators.

A spokesperson for Governor Henry McMaster tells ABC Columbia News the ordinance is in violation of legislation that states no money can be used to enforce a mask requirement in schools. He also adds “the governor’s position remains very clear – parents, and only parents, should be empowered with deciding whether their children wear masks in schools.”

Mayor Benjamin says the city will provide masks for schools, but will not hesitate to give out $100 fines for those who don’t comply. The order takes effect immediately and will expire in 61 days.

South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson released a brief statement after the ordinance was approved. It reads, “We’ve received inquiries about the City of Columbia’s mask mandate. We’re doing research and analysis of it and expect to announce something late next week.”

You can see ABC Columbia’s coverage of the mayor’s announcement on Wednesday by clicking here.

Categories: Local News, State