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Uptick in cases concerns DHEC leader ahead of the school year

When South Carolina public schools open their doors to students and teachers in a matter of...
When South Carolina public schools open their doors to students and teachers in a matter of weeks, there will be no mask or vaccination requirements.(Live 5)
Published: Jul. 15, 2021 at 7:09 PM EDT|Updated: Jul. 15, 2021 at 7:47 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCSC) - When South Carolina public schools open their doors to students and teachers in a matter of weeks, there will be no mask or vaccination requirements.

The South Carolina Dept. of Health and Environmental Control says they are working on guidance for returning to in-person learning after the CDC released theirs last week.

Assistant State Epidemiologist Dr. Jane Kelly said they are writing these recommendations with the recent uptick in cases in mind.

“The Delta variant spreads more quickly, more easily. We are seeing it in summer camps, I fear we will see it with back to school,” Kelly said.

Dr. Kelly explained that DHEC is also coming up with a protocol for what to do if a child in a classroom tests positive for COVID-19,

“It’s not premature for me to say that isolation and quarantine are still important tools in our toolbox. So as we go back to school, if there is a child who has COVID-19 and they are in close contact with other children, we are going to ask those children to be quarantined for a period of time,” she said.

But there may be exceptions for instances where both children were masked, distanced, and or vaccinated.

Kelly said there’s been an increase in COVID-19 cases among kids in summer camps across South Carolina and the country.

On Tuesday, a day camp in the Upstate announced six of their campers tested positive for COVID-19 and were asymptomatic.

Asymptomatic or mild cases among children concern Kelly because kids can become spreaders who can infect more vulnerable populations.

“Maybe they are not terribly sick but they can bring it home to parents to grandparents to siblings with chronic medical conditions,” she said.

However, it is possible that a school-aged child could get very sick from COVID. According to DHEC, there are more than 120 cases of multisystem inflammatory syndrome (MIS-C) among children in South Carolina.

DHEC says this is just one example of something happening state and nationwide.

And a top health official is worried we will see a similar increase in cases once kids go back to school in just a matter of weeks for some public schools.

“That’s a severe disease,” Kelly explained. “You’ll have symptoms or maybe even permanent damage to organ systems that can last for months, years, maybe lifelong. There are a lot of unknowns around that. To say that kids don’t get sick. That’s a myth...some do.”

DHEC suggests all children 12 and older and parents get vaccinated soon so they can be considered fully immunized by the start of the school year.

If getting vaccinated isn’t an option, Kelly recommended students wear a mask at school and wash their hands regularly.

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