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Columbia City Council passes stay-at-home order

Staff Report //March 27, 2020//

Columbia City Council passes stay-at-home order

Staff Report //March 27, 2020//

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Columbia City Council has enacted a stay-at-home order for the city of Columbia which will take effect Sunday at 12:01 a.m.

The measure passed during a City Council session held on Thursday.

The ordinance (.pdf) includes a list of essential services, including health care, retail and service operations, along with infrastructure operations and manufacturing, which will remain open.

Citizens are encouraged to enjoy outdoor activities but not to come into close contact with other people.

“COVID-19 is now aggressively spreading across the state, with the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control confirming the localized person-to-person spread of COVID-19 in South Carolina, which indicates a significantly increasing risk of exposure and infection to City of Columbia residents,” according to the ordinance. The ordinance says it is “imperative” that residents shelter at home “unless providing or requiring an essential service” and maintain social distancing of at least 6 feet from others while in public.

The ordinance, and others issued by S.C. cities including Charleston, drew a response from S.C. Attorney General Alan Wilson on Friday. Wilson issued a statement saying "local governments do not have the authority to exercise emergency powers that are delegated to the Governor by state lawmakers.”

The statement cited a previous opinion from 1980 relating to mandatory evacuation orders which concluded that state law only permitted the governor to exercise emergency powers.

“This conclusion that the Governor’s emergency powers preempt those of counties and municipalities is equally applicable to the pandemic created by COVID-19,” Wilson’s statement said. “Accordingly the 1980 opinion is affirmed and is provided as guidance to counties and municipalities.”

The statement concluded: “Counties and municipalities should be aware that any unauthorized exercise of such emergency powers could subject these political subdivisions to liability at the behest of a private citizen with requisite legal standing.”