SC school, health officials urge vaccinations and masks amid calls to end proviso


COLUMBIA, S.C. (WSAV) – Calls are mounting to end a proviso aimed to ban South Carolina school boards from establishing mask mandates.

Democratic state lawmakers gathered Tuesday urging for an emergency session of the General Assembly to repeal the restriction.

“We are legislators, not doctors,” said Rep. Patricia Henegan, the District 54 representative and member of the Legislative Black Caucus.

“When it comes to children’s welfare, we must do the right thing,” she added.

Meanwhile, a bipartisan group of state senators sent a letter to Senate President Harvey Peeler, also asking him to call the body back.

State officials do seem to be on the page about one thing — keeping children in the classroom.

In a joint press conference with State Epidemiologist Dr. Linda Bell, South Carolina State Superintendent Molly Spearman said keeping in-person learning for the entire school year is crucial for academic success.

She says in order to keep schools open everyone must be vigilant at keeping students safe by taking the COVID-19 virus seriously and following medical professionals’ recommendations.

“Parents, please, listen to your doctors,” said Spearman.

Spearman recommended that eligible family members should get vaccinated and students should wear masks at school.

Dr. Bell suggested South Carolina should set the goal of having a high vaccinated population “as soon as possible.”

South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster made a decision to uphold a proviso aimed to ban local school boards from establishing mask mandates.

The proviso was passed by the General Assembly earlier this year. District 93 Rep. Russell Ott said at the time of the June vote, the seven-day average was 150 cases compared to the most recent seven-da7 average of 3,390 cases.

Ott added the proviso has only caused confusion and uncertainty among school leaders.

“School officials need the ability to implement measures they feel necessary to keep the children of South Carolina safe,” he said.

A flurry of school districts are implementing mask requirements despite the attempts to block them, and the largest school district in the state — Pickens — going virtual.

Most districts in the state return to school either this week or the following week.

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