COLUMBIA, S.C. (WSAV) – Gov. Henry McMaster says his hands are tied when it comes to providing in-person learning for all students in South Carolina.
During a COVID-19 press conference on Thursday, the governor said his office has received numerous complaints from parents who are frustrated with the lack of schooling options.
“They shouldn’t have to choose between their child or their job,” McMaster said of working parents.
He said that if he had the authority to make certain schools open, he “would have issued the executive order months ago.”
According to the governor, there are 19 districts that have face-to-face instruction available five days a week.
McMaster pointed to the success of the economy returning to normal after shutdowns due to COVID-19 and said schools “are no different.”
The governor’s remarks come just a day after a young teacher died due to COVID-19. Richland School District 2 Demi Bannister, a 28-year-old teaching third grade, was diagnosed with the virus on Friday and died Monday.
“We’re, of course, very sorry about that,” he said.
When a reporter followed up, asking McMaster if he was concerned there might be more teacher deaths should schools return in person, he said, “the virus is still here, people are going to get it.”
“And some of them are going to be teachers, some are going to be students, some are going to be maybe even some of us here,” he continued. “We have to be careful but we have to move forward. We cannot live in fear of the virus and shut down every institute in sight.”
The governor has recommended to the General Assembly that $50 million of the second phase of CARES Act funds be given to public and charter schools for COVID-19 related costs incurred by reopening.
McMaster’s recommendations also include:
- $450 million to replenish the Unemployment Trust Fund
- $45 million in grants for small businesses and non-profit organizations that did not receive federal Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans
- $93 million to reimburse DHEC and MUSC for their continued COVID-19 efforts
- $100 million to be reimbursed to state agencies with verifiable COVID-19 related expenses
Meanwhile, the governor says a COVID-19 vaccine task force has been established, including members from South Carolina’s Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC), Emergency Management Division, Hospital Association and National Guard.
The group will coordinate the distribution of the vaccine when it reaches South Carolina.
When asked if the vaccine would be required by schools, Marshall Taylor, DHEC’s acting director, said it’s up to the state legislature to decide.
“I believe that they probably will,” Taylor said.