County Weighs Schools’ Interests as It Considers COVID-19 Response

August 10, 2021

Following is a statement from Richland County Council Chair Paul Livingston in response to a rise in cases of COVID-19 in our community. County Council adopted an emergency ordinance that took effect July 6, 2020, and required people over 10 years old to wear face coverings while in most public places. County Council extended the ordinance five times. It expired June 5, 2021.

“Richland County is carefully monitoring the recent surge in coronavirus delta variant cases. Our Emergency Services and Administration departments track daily COVID-19 numbers and monitor hospital activity so that the Administrator and Council can make fully informed decisions regarding the safety of the citizens of Richland County.

“Any decision to require masks in the County, in schools or otherwise, must be done prudently. I have been in touch with the school superintendents, the County Administrator and the County Attorney regarding this issue. As I’m sure you are aware, the state Legislature attempted to preempt a school district’s authority to require face masks in schools by including a proviso in this year’s annual budget. The proviso threatens the districts with loss of state funding if they attempt to enact or enforce a face mask policy. The governor and the attorney general have stated publicly that they believe schools are prohibited from requiring face masks as a consequence of the proviso; thus, it is critical that the County proceed with caution to avoid unintended and potentially devastating financial consequences to the districts, while still ensuring the safety of its citizens.

“We need to make sure we’re aware of required resources and whether those resources are in place or can be implemented quickly within our schools, whether it’s supplying masks or having people in place to enforce any needed measures. I will continue to use all the resources at my disposal to make sure the Council is informed and ready to act prior to the start of the school year, as necessary.” – Richland County Council Chair Paul Livingston, District 4