DHEC recommends masks in schools, but South Carolina school districts can’t require them

South Carolina News

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WSPA) — With most students in South Carolina starting the new school year in a couple of weeks, state education leaders are urging districts to implement new guidance released from the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC).

However, the new recommendations do include a contradiction to a recent law passed in South Carolina.

Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman says the state was hopeful the 2021-22 school year would be as close to normal as possible but the delta variant is quickly changing that.

DHEC strongly recommends everyone wear masks inside schools, especially when physical distancing isn’t possible, and Spearman is encouraging mask use.

But due to a proviso in the state budget, districts in South Carolina cannot enforce them.

Earlier this month, state lawmakers passed a law that prohibits schools and school districts from using state funds for requiring masks. Then, the state education department issued a memo stating that state-funded buses were included in that law.

Under the recommendations, DHEC said, “Mask use is required on school buses and other public transportation per federal CDC Order regardless of the mask policy at school or the individual’s vaccination status; school systems should take appropriate steps to ensure compliance with this requirement by students, staff, and others.”

Spearman said some school districts that started their year-round calendar this month are seeing COVID-19 cases among students.

“They are already beginning to quarantine some students, and that type of work with school nurses administering,” the superintendent said.

If needed, to help with contact tracing and testing, the State Department of Education says funding has been made available for every school in South Carolina to have a full-time nurse.

Other key points from DHEC include:

  • Schools are strongly encouraged to work with local public health officials and healthcare facilities and professionals to provide factual information and education about COVID-19 vaccination and to increase access to COVID-19 vaccines by coordinating vaccine clinics for staff, students, and families who wish to be vaccinated.
  • DHEC strongly recommends mask use for all people when indoors in school settings, especially when physical distancing is not possible. Children under two years old, anyone who has trouble breathing, or anyone unable to remove the face covering without assistance should not wear a mask. DHEC recognizes mask use cannot be mandated per the SC General Assembly but is providing the following guidance for teachers, staff and parents.
  •  At least three feet of distance between each student should be maintained to the greatest extent possible.
  • Case investigation and contact tracing are critical strategies to identify and isolate cases and test and quarantine close contacts to reduce transmission.

To read the full guidelines, you can click or tap here.

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