“We Can’t Afford to Wait” for Chief Public Health Officer

Johnson announces plan to bring new expertise and urgency to city’s pandemic response

After launching his campaign for Mayor of Columbia earlier this week, Sam Johnson today called on city leaders to take a major step forward in protecting Columbia’s families from COVID-19 by hiring a Chief Public Health Officer to improve the city’s pandemic response as well as help address long-term issues across Columbia.

“Like many of us, I’ve lost family to COVID-19. So this isn’t just about policy or politics for me. It’s personal,” Johnson explained. “Hiring a Chief Public Health Officer would not only help protect Columbia’s families from this deadly pandemic, it would create a new foundation to help meet long term health challenges across our city.”

“It’s the right thing to do and, with the death toll rising every day, we can’t afford to wait.”

This move would take an important step in creating a truly comprehensive citywide vaccination plan that includes bringing life-saving vaccines into vulnerable and minority communities hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Johnson is also calling for creation of a new partnership with state health authorities by establishing a Memorandum of Understanding between the City of Columbia and the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (SCDHEC) to ensure a direct line of communication that improves cooperation and promotes accountability. 

Under his proposal, Columbia’s Chief Public Health Officer would have a wide range of responsibilities including:

  • Spearheading Columbia’s pandemic response and implementing a comprehensive and inclusive citywide COVID-19 vaccination plan.
  • Coordinating with local health resources, from hospitals to community health centers, to ensure all of our citizens have access to COVID-19 testing, vaccines and general healthcare resources.
  • Ensure health policy decisions, including pandemic response and reopening strategies, are based on science.
  • Establishing a Memorandum of Understanding between the city and SCDHEC to ensure a direct line of communication that improves cooperation and promotes accountability.
  • Overseeing Columbia’s public health initiatives and creating new strategies to address long term health issues in the city like diabetes, heart disease and nutrition.