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SCDHEC urges schools to protect students, teachers

SCDHEC urges schools to protect students, teachers

Federal court ruling says SC schools cannot be banned from mask requirements

LANDRUM—A federal court ruling recently determined that South Carolina Schools cannot be banned from requiring students to wear masks and the state’s public health director said Wednesday that she hopes schools will now protect students, teachers and staff from Covid-19. 

Department of Health and Environmental Control Public Health Director Dr. Brannon Traxler said during a press conference on Wednesday that as the state’s public health agency, they continue to recommend universal wearing of masks for everyone in indoor areas such as schools. 

“We also encourage all eligible South Carolinians who have not yet been vaccinated against Covid-19 to do so as soon as possible,” Traxler said. “We know that masks and vaccines are safe and effective and can keep our kids and our teachers safe in our schools, based on evidence-based studies. Each of the studies and their findings highlight the benefits of masking in schools and we hope our schools exercise the ability to protect their students and teachers and staff.” 

District One Schools, which includes Landrum and Campobello, are currently offering optional masks. Meanwhile, in Polk County, the school board reversed its decision to have optional masks at the beginning of the year to mandatory masks after a surge in cases and quarantines. 

Traxler mentioned a couple of studies, including one that found during the 2 weeks following the start of school cases of the virus in children were lower in counties with mask mandates. In areas with mask requirements, the case rate was 16 cases per 100,000 people per day compared to 35 cases per 100,000 people per day without mask requirements. 

On Tuesday, U.S. District Court Judge Mary Geigler Lewis issued a ruling that at least temporarily blocks South Carolina from enforcing a mask ban in schools. 

State Superintendent Molly Spearman and the state department of education said this week that both state and local school districts are prohibited from enforcing the legislative provision and school districts now have the “discretionary authority” to require masks. 

South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster filed a notice of appeal to the ruling in the U.S. Court of Appeals on Wednesday. 

“The governor strongly disagrees with the court’s decision and will defend a parent’s right to decide what’s best for their children up to the United States Supreme Court, if necessary,” Brian Symmes, the governor’s spokesman said.