CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – As local cases of COVID-19 surge, Charleston City Council implemented their Phase III re-opening plan as leaders and people across the community are concerned about the safety of children in the classrooms.

“I don’t think this is an exaggeration, this is real,” says Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg.

City and medical leaders say they are concerned about the spread of COVID-19 taking over hospitals in the Lowcountry.

“The Delta variant is incredibly contagious, and my colleagues and I are terrified,” says Dr. Elizabeth Mack, with MUSC Pediatric Critical Care.

Mayor Tecklenburg and city council says the Phase III reopening plan is needed as hospitalizations are up 300% across the state. Masks are required in city buildings and facilities as well as the number of people allowed.

“In the city, I think we are tracking about 80 to 90 new cases a day and that’s too high,” says Mayor Tecklenburg.

Mayor Tecklenburg says this enforcement is needed as children head back to school and parents fear the virus spreading in the classroom.

“Instead of being reactive and waiting for cases to peak and increase once school starts, we want to be proactive and prevent all the cases,” says one CCSD parent.

With the state’s proviso in place, prohibiting the enforcement of masks in school, the mayor says enforcement is needed as a mandate is difficult and he says nearly impossible.

“It’s a public health issue and we just want everyone to be safe and for this virus to just go away,” says Mayor Tecklenburg.

Medical experts with MUSC say combating the spread of COVID-19 is manageable in schools with protocols like mask-wearing and social distancing in place.