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DHEC asks state lawmakers to consider local decision-making authority on face masks

((Source: SCDHEC.gov))
Published: Aug. 20, 2021 at 1:31 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WMBF) - The South Carolina Board of Health and Environmental Control is asking state lawmakers to consider providing local decision-making authority regarding mask mandates in schools.

The motion was approved during a board meeting Friday.

The state passed Proviso 1.108 in June when lawmakers passed the state budget. The proviso states that any school district that uses state funds can’t require its students and/or employees to wear a face mask in school buildings.

Recently, some state lawmakers have begun to ask whether the budget proviso should be reconsidered.

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During the meeting, state epidemiologist Dr. Linda Bell and DHEC Public Health Director to Dr. Brannon Traxler laid out the argument for mask mandates in schools.

The doctors noted the science shows having all people in schools wearing masks will protect students’ health and give them the best chance to succeed academically and socially.

Although he did not comment on the legislative issues, DHEC Director Dr. Edward Simmer supported the notion that the best way to keep students in the classroom is requiring masks.

More than 5,000 people under the age of 20 have been diagnosed with COVID-19 just over the past week, according to Simmer.

In addition, DHEC says, more than 1,000 students statewide are currently quarantined due to virus.

Simmer noted only about 20% of South Carolinians aged 12 to 19 have been vaccinated.

Many school districts throughout the state reopened this week and Simmer told the board he suspects the number of COVID-19 cases will increase over the next two to three weeks.

You can listen to Friday’s board meeting in its entirety here.

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