School districts across the state of South Carolina are struggling to address the issue of masks in schools – especially after the Palmetto State’s governor weighed in with a decisive rebuke of mask ordinances at the local level.
Last week, a Midlands, South Carolina school district sent out a notification to parents informing them that children would no longer be required to wear masks at school beginning May 10, 2021. The next day, though, the district reversed its position – saying it needed to consult first with its attorneys.
“Based on the state’s significant progress related to the administration of authorized and accessible Covid-19 vaccines and the latest key indicators, metrics and date elements used to asses the measure of the impact from Covid-19 … I have determined that any remaining mandates issued by counties, municipalities or any other political subdivisions of the state related to face coverings are no longer necessary or appropriate,” McMaster wrote in his order.
“Governor McMaster’s executive order lifting mask ordinances is an affront to both the principle of local control of a school district by its elected officials, and to the advice of experts, including the American Academy of Pediatrics and DHEC, who have explicitly supported face coverings in schools to protect children and school staff,” the group noted.
McMaster’s public health agency – the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control (SCDHEC) promulgated regulations on Wednesday related to his order. Specifically, the agency has prepared a form which parents must sign if they wish to have their children “opt-out” of wearing masks.
Here is a copy of the form (.pdf) …
“In order to be valid, the form must be completed without change by the parent or guardian,” SCDHEC warned.
The agency also expressly rebuked McMaster for his policy shift – reviving the discord that has been evident from the very beginning of the pandemic.
“(SC)DHEC’s recommendations regarding COVID-19 precautions, including wearing face masks, have not changed,” the agency tweeted. “Wearing face masks and taking other precautions are important disease prevention methods that protect not only the person wearing the mask but also those around them.”
In a follow-up tweet, the agency said it was continuing to follow guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), arguing that “masks are an effective and essential tool for protecting the health of all South Carolinians during this ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.”
“All students, staff, and others in schools should continue to wear masks through the end of the current school year,” the agency tweeted.
Embattled Richland county school district one took things one step further and announced its intention to openly defy McMaster’s order.
“Our face covering policy and related requirements will remain in place, including the wearing of face coverings by students and staff in our schools and administrative buildings and on our school buses,” a statement from superintendent Craig Witherspoon noted. “The health and safety of our students and staff continue to be our priorities, as they have been throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, which is not over.”
Really? New confirmed or probable cases of the virus clocked in at an anemic 286 on Tuesday – the lowest total in nearly a year, according to SCDHEC data. Meanwhile, coronavirus-related hospitalizations stood at 318 this week – the lowest they have been since April 10, 2020.
And the numbers are still dropping …
Bottom line? I support McMaster’s decision … and I do not believe South Carolina parents should be required to submit an “opt-out” form should they wish for their children to no longer wear masks at one of the Palmetto State’s government-run schools.
This insanity has gone on long enough …
ABOUT THE AUTHOR …
Will Folks is the founding editor of the news outlet you are currently reading. Prior to founding FITSNews, he served as press secretary to the governor of South Carolina. He lives in the Midlands region of the state with his wife and seven children. And yes, he has LOTS of hats.
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