COLUMBIA, S.C. (WSPA) — Organizers with SC For Ed read the names of 61 school staff members and students they have confirmed who had died due to COVID-19 during a vigil at the State House Tuesday night.
SC For Ed Board Member Nicole Walker said one person lost to COVID-19 is one too many.
“The state should be doing more to protect all the lives of staff and students in South Carolina public schools,” Walker said.
The educator group planned the vigil after originally planning to hold a protest on Oct. 12. State senators were scheduled to return to Columbia to take up redistricting and federal COVID-19 relief funds but canceled that session.
“We felt like it was important to keep the date,” said Walker. “Because part of the spirit of us being there was on behalf of those working in our communities and working in our schools who lost their lives due to COVID-19.”
Walker said to remember those who died they read the names of 61 school staff and students they confirmed to have passed away due to COVID-19.
She said in addition to holding this vigil they are asking school boards and lawmakers to do more to protect students.
“This is not political. This is public health and it shouldn’t be anything but public health,” said Walker.
They want to see more school districts put a face covering requirement in place.
Right now, a federal judge has blocked a ban of mask mandates in South Carolina public schools. School boards and districts are free to implement and enforce a mandate if they enact it.
That block is being challenged and appealed by Gov. Henry McMaster. Tuesday, he once again told reporters it should not be up to school districts or the government to decide whether or not students wear face coverings.
“There are a lot of people who want their children to wear a mask and they certainly can do that,” said McMaster. “There are others who for reasons they know about their children. They are certainly the best judge. I believe the parents are the one who should be able to make that final decision.”
Masks remain optional in South Carolina public schools.
State lawmakers are expected to return to Columbia in January for the start of the second year of a two-year session.