South Carolina Considers Breaking Up Public Health Agency

FILE - In this Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2021 file photo, Dr. Edward Simmer answers questions from the South Carolina Senate Medical Affairs committee in Columbia, S.C. Simmer was confirmed director of the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control in February and has asked lawmakers for time to figure out department reforms before the legislature tries to break apart the agency. (AP Photo/Michelle Liu, File)

(AP) — Public health workers in South Carolina have been tasked with keeping the state safe for 143 years, ever since a health board was created following a yellow fever outbreak in 1878.

Now, as the coronavirus pandemic surges, legislators are trying to break their agency apart. South Carolina’s Department of Health and Environmental Control is responsible not only for vaccine distribution, but things like pollution permits for coal plants. It’s a sprawling agency with nearly 4,000 workers.

The senate president would break it up, a move endorsed by the governor. The new director asked for a year to improve the pandemic response, but they aren’t cutting him any slack.


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