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County officials explain how state of emergency helps fight coronavirus locally

Published: Apr. 27, 2020 at 7:59 PM EDT
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LANCASTER, S.C. (WBTV) - South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster extended the state of emergency for another 15 days. This is the fourth state of emergency for South Carolina.

South Carolina’s law only allows the governor to extend a state of emergency for 15 days. The last declaration was April 12th so the state of emergency was going to expire on Monday. This will be his fourth state of emergency for the coronavirus.

The extended state of emergency allows McMaster to continue issuing executive orders as he sees fit. These executive orders include school closures, closing non-essential businesses, and the home or work order. The governor still has the ability to withdraw the executive orders when he feel necessary, like the first set of non-essential businesses.

For the state to continue responding quickly to the coronavirus, the governor must keep the state under a state of emergency. This also applies to counties. It gives the counties authorities they would not have without it.

”We do not have the authority to declare states of emergency on our own that flows through the governor’s office," says Lancaster County administrator Steve Willis.

Willis says those authorities allow Lancaster County council to help people faster. In a normal process, it might take three meetings for an ordinance to pass. In these times, an emergency order can be written and passed within hours.

”Times like this you just can’t go through the normal process. If we’re under the state of emergency I can ask county council and we can bypass some of our processes in order to respond to the need that the county may have," he says.

What is given can also be taken away. If Governor McMaster stops the state of emergency and starts reopening South Carolina, Willis says the counties follow.

”If he rescinds the state of emergency and reopens South Carolina we’re going to follow what the dictates from the governor are. We have to," says Willis.

Willis says the county council will extend Lancaster County’s in their meeting Monday. That will last 61 days unless withdrawn.

Also in the state of emergency, McMaster addressed the school closure and elections. McMaster addressed schools would be closed for the rest of the school year. He also wants all elections before or on May 12th to be postponed and rescheduled.

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