(Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly attributed a quote to State Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman. This has been corrected.)
COLUMBIA, S.C. (WSPA) – As COVID-19 cases and reported hospitalizations are on the rise in South Carolina, Governor Henry McMaster said the state will not shut down.
McMaster called a news conference Monday morning at the State House to the talk about the current situation. He said schools in South Carolina will not be closed and students will not be forced to wear masks if their parents don’t want them to.
“Mandating masks is not the answer. Personal responsibility is the answer. Common sense is the answer. We have an abundance of both in South Carolina,” he said.
McMaster said state law prevents schools from enforcing mask mandates and also noted that the Delta variant poses a real threat.
He said the government should not be forcing students to wear masks in schools and it should remain optional. According to McMaster, he’s seen reports of younger children struggling with communication while wearing masks.
“They can’t see their teacher’s faces, the children can’t see each other’s faces,” he said Monday.
DHEC recommends masks indoors at schools, stating in their COVID-19 safety guidance for the 2021-22 school year that they are safe and that they “do not interfere with learning and have provided no barrier to socialization.”
The Governor encouraged all eligible South Carolinians to get vaccinated, saying now is the perfect time to do it with school starting again for most children in the state.
“I’ve been vaccinated. I believe that it works. Studies show that all of the vaccines – all three are highly effective against COVID and the new variant,” he said.
According to the state health department, as of Monday afternoon, 45.2% of eligible South Carolinians are fully vaccinated.
McMaster also said he believes the City of Columbia’s emergency mask ordinance for some schools within city limits violates state law.