Some members Charleston City Council said a citywide mask mandate in public spaces, including schools, may be worth the fight against South Carolina political leaders, including the state legislature, which ruled public schools can’t use public funds to enforce mask mandates.
The comments came during a special city council meeting Wednesday to discuss the city’s approach to COVID-19 precautions as the delta variant continues to drive up infections and deaths.
“The best way to keep our schools open and to keep children in schools and to keep our communtiy safe from the coronavirus,” said Dr. Elizabeth Mack, vice president of the American Academy of Pediatrics‘ South Carolina chapter, “is make sure children, given they’re not able to get vaccinated, is make sure we have some sort of mask mandate for children, especially those under the age of 12, but honestly all children and staff in school.”
Mack was joined by over a dozen during public comments Wednesday in favor of masks in schools and other public spaces.
And they have support from many on council. Councilman Dudley Gregorie said this wouldn’t be the first time Charleston led an unpopular fight against state leaders, calling it “good trouble.”
“I think this issue is serious enough for the city of Charleston to take a leadership role and say, ‘Our children come first,'” he said. “It’s time for us to join the fight in the battle.”
But South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson has inserted himself into the debate in advisory opinions for state universities and the City of Columbia, saying their mask policies violated state law. But some have said the Republican attorney general’s word is not final.
“I’ve looked into the legal issues, and in my view, this issue is not nearly as black and white as attorney general Wilson suggests,” Councilman Ross Appel said during the special meeting. “I think this is a legal fight worth having — we’re talking about the health and safety of our kids for crying out loud.”
However, a dissenting opinion came from council member Harry Griffin, who supported the suggested compromise of a resolution recommending mask-wearing in public spaces, but opposed a mandate.
“I have a hard time believing that our council would be willing to put our school district’s funding … at risk by defying that,” he said. “I don’t think that’s good trouble.”
City Council voted to pass a resolution recommending that all citizens wear masks in public spaces and seek opportunities to get vaccinated. The next council meeting, during which the idea of a legal fight for a mask mandate would be discussed in further detail, is set for Tuesday evening.
The special meeting was recorded and available for public viewing on the City of Charleston’s YouTube channel.
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