South Carolina governor Henry McMaster announced the closure of all government-run schools in the Palmetto State beginning on Monday, March 16, 2020 in response to escalating concerns related to the coronavirus (known officially as 2019-nCoV or COVID-19).
McMaster said all South Carolina schools — including K-12, colleges, universities, and technical schools — will close for students and non-essential employees from Monday through the end of the month. He also asked that public gatherings, indoors and outdoors, be limited to 100 people or less across the state.
The announcement was made as the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (SCDHEC) said there were nine new COVID-19 cases on Sunday – bringing the state’s total to 28 cases, with no deaths.
South Carolina superintendent Molly Spearman said the state is currently reviewing and approving distance learning plans in each district for the next two weeks.
Spearman also said that state received a waiver to allow summer feeding options while school is out. She said the state will be able to provide children in need two meals a day with a “grab and go” service. Schools will have to apply for this service, she said.
The state will also be using the buses for WiFi in communities where school children don’t have access to Internet. They also plan on using the buses to drop off school materials to children who need it.
Officials also asked to suspend federally required tests that are typically administered in the spring, Spearman said.
Spearman said all teachers, cafeteria workers, and bus drivers will be paid during this time.
In Richland County School District One, for instance, teachers and all other district employees are expected to report to work as normal on Monday.
McMaster said that municipal elections will be postponed until after May 1 and utilities should not suspend service due to nonpayment during this State of Emergency.
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McMaster previously planned to shut down classes in only two counties, a move that drew bipartisan criticism given broader containment measures enacted in other states – including neighboring North Carolina.
News of the decision came after a pair of top private schools in Columbia, S.C. – McMaster’s hometown and the site of the state capital – announced that they were shutting down indefinitely in response to the virus.
It also came less than twenty-four hours after the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control (SCDHEC) – the agency leading the Palmetto State’s response to the virus – announced six new presumptive positive cases, bringing the statewide total to nineteen.
Additional presumptive positive tests are expected to be announced on Sunday.
As of Sunday afternoon, 2019-nCoV had infected 153,527 people in 144 countries wordwide, killing 5,733 of them – according to the latest statistics from the World Health Organization (WHO). In the United States, the virus had infected 2,815 people in 49 states – killing 59 of them.
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