COLUMBIA, SC (WSPA) — The South Carolina Board of Health and Environmental Control voted to ask state lawmakers to allow local decision making regarding mask mandates in schools.

The board voted unanimously to approve the measure Friday morning during a meeting.

Fourth District Board Member Dr. Robert Morgan introduced the motion after a lengthy executive session. He said, “In light of the data reviewed and received by DHEC, I move that the chair and Director of DHEC contact leadership of the South Carolina House and Senate urging them to consider providing local decision making authority regarding mask mandates in schools.”

Right now, a one-year state law, budget proviso 1.108 prohibits mask mandates in public schools. The board is encouraging lawmakers to return to Columbia to lift the ban.

This comes as DHEC reports 473 cases of COVID-19 in South Carolina public and private schools. According to Director Dr. Edward Simmer, there are ‘well over 1,000’ students quarantined. He said these quarantined students are forced to miss school for 10 to 14 days.

Director Simmer said the best way to protect children and to keep them in school is to require the use of masks in schools.

During Friday’s board meeting, State Epidemiologist Dr. Linda Bell and DHEC Public Health Director Dr. Brannon Traxler shared recent studies and data showing the effectiveness of masks in school settings.

They said masks slowed the spread of COVID-19 and did not pose any academic, health or safety risks for children.

DHEC also updated their guidance to recommend masks in schools, going against the budget proviso.

Lawmaker are expected to return to Columbia in September.

We have reached out to the Governor’s Office and Department of Education for comment.

You can watch Friday’s full meeting by clicking or tapping here.