Columbia’s new school mask mandate is another weapon in COVID-19 fight

·2 min read

How we allowed the science behind something so simple as wearing a mask to become controversial or political will likely be pondered for decades beyond the COVID-19 pandemic.

But right here and now our elected leaders, guided by medical experts and science, have to do what’s best for their constituents- save lives and prevent needless suffering.

On Monday, Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin declared a new state of emergency in South Carolina’s capital city because of rising cases of COVID-19 and today, supported by City Council, that order, requiring students, faculty, staff and visitors wear face coverings indoors at all public and private schools as well as daycare facilities passed.

The decision flies in the face of Gov. Henry McMaster’s executive order banning mask mandates and goes against a proviso the State Legislature adopted for the 2021-22 school year that prohibits schools from requiring masks be worn by students.

Benjamin argues that the city has the legal right to take such a step under the South Carolina constitution and that the city would take the fight to the Supreme Court, if necessary.

“Let’s save our babies. Let’s protect our babies. Let’s protect the men and women who educate them every day,” Benjamin said at a press conference on Wednesday.

Hearing of Benjamin’s plan, McMaster’s office said, “This is another attempt to force children to wear masks in schools without a bit of consideration for a parent’s right to make that decision.”

Hoping people do the right thing for themselves and their communities simply isn’t enough anymore.

Just yesterday, Illinois’ Gov. J.B. Pritzker, a democrat, issued a mask mandate for his state’s schools and earlier this week Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, a republican, said he regretted signing a law preventing local entities such as cities and schools from enacting mask mandates.

Regardless of political affiliation, they know something more must be done.

So far, nearly 10,000 South Carolina residents have died from COVID-19 and, if we truly value human life, we must do what is necessary to prevent others from facing a similar fate, particularly as the highly-transmissible delta variant takes hold.

We applaud the mayor and City Council for taking a stand for the good of the community.

Nobody enjoys wearing masks, but if a minor inconvenience can protect you or your children, isn’t it worth it?

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