- Over 1,000 HC Doctors Sign Petition Calling on State to Allow Mask Requirements
- House Democrats call for special session to repeal budget clause governing masks
- SC School Boards Association Calls on Legislature to “Take a Step Back”
Pressure is mounting on Governor Henry McMaster and the General Assembly, as groups across the state urge the repeal of the ban on mandatory masks.
More than 1,000 doctors statewide submitted a petition Monday to make masks mandatory in schools, and the SC School Board Association called on lawmakers to allow local control over mask requirements in schools in a statement issued the same day.
Meanwhile, 43 members of the SC House Democratic Caucus are also calling for an emergency session to repeal clause 1.108, related to mask requirements, from the state budget.
“We have all been fighting the COVID-19 pandemic for over a year and have done everything in our power to protect the general population and take care of them to the best of our ability,” the doctor’s petition said. Originally written by Hunter Moore, a pediatrician from Greenville.
“Unfortunately, the decisions have now restricted the implementation of appropriate safeguards in our schools,” the petition says.
Even if every unvaccinated South Carolina received a vaccine today, residents would still not have full protection for several weeks, according to the petition and statement released by the Democratic caucus.
“Our next best defense against this virus is masking,” Moore said.
Meanwhile, SC School Board Association executive director Scott Price said in a statement that local superintendents are in the best position to monitor and change security protocols. “The legislature should take a step back and let them do their job!” He said in the statement.
DHEC:South Carolina students are expected to wear masks when school returns this fall
With most public schools starting this week, groups fear that children, once considered the safest group, are the most vulnerable to the highly transmissible delta variant.
Pickens County, one of the first school districts to open, is already struggling with a surge in cases in just over a week of in-person schooling.
On August 13, the school district reported that 142 students tested positive for COVID-19 and that four staff members and one student were hospitalized. Spokesman Darian Byrd said two staff members were on ventilators.
The current scenario far exceeds the peak of the previous school year when 85 students tested positive.
The rise in the number of cases prompted Pickens County schools to temporarily put all students into distance learning. This action led Monday morning to a protest by parents who want their children to be in class.
Following:Schools choose temporary virtual classrooms after increase in COVID cases
Asked about the growing number of cases in Pickens County and the possibility of school closures, Gov. Henry McMaster reiterated at a press conference on Aug. 13 that it was important for children to study in schools for compensate for the loss of learning and that the choice to wear the masks was still left to the parents.
He also said he had no plans to issue an executive order and allow school districts to decide whether masks were needed.
The governor’s position remains unchanged, spokesman Brian Symmes said. “A parent has the ultimate expertise in the health and safety of their family and it should be the decision of a single parent who determines whether their child wears a face mask at school,” he said. .
“Why are we so adamant about this? Asked Bob Saul, president of the SC American Academy of Pediatrics. “We, like everyone else, want children to go back to school, we know how important this is,” he said. “But it doesn’t make sense for children to go back to school in an unsafe environment.”
Following:Greenville will make e-learning a school-by-school decision amid COVID outbreak
Saul said wearing a mask and getting vaccinated is part of the social responsibility to protect others. “We do it with chickenpox, we do it with measles, we do it with a whole series of vaccines required before the children go to school,” he said.
He said he has treated children with complex cases ranging from cancer to severe respiratory illnesses. “Children wear masks without a problem,” he said.
Some of the active restrictions imposed by the state are:
- Schools and school districts are prohibited from requiring masks in schools or risking losing funding.
- Schools are required to offer five-day in-person instruction.
- Teachers cannot teach both virtually and in person simultaneously.
- School districts cannot have more than 5% of their student population enrolled in virtual education. Otherwise, they would risk losing 47% of state funding for each student.
Devyani Chhetri is the state government surveillance journalist. You can reach her at [email protected] or @ChhetriDevyani on Twitter.