South Carolina will enforce a coronavirus mask mandate on school buses after the governor dropped requirements for masks in schools statewide this week, the state’s Department of Education announced.
Gov. Henry McMaster issued an executive order Tuesday that left the decision to parents as to whether their child wore a mask to school or not, effectively ending the statewide mandate for schools.
State Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman challenged the order, leading the state to develop a form to distribute to parents to allow them instead to “opt-out” of wearing facemasks.
The South Carolina Department of Education (SCDE) has strongly opposed the removal of the order, telling district superintendents that McMaster had “been successful in his mission of circumventing public health guidance,” WCIV, the ABC affiliated TV station in Charleston reported.
To try and maintain some form of health policy, the SCDE has instead issued guidance that requires students to wear masks on school buses, citing Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidance on the issue.
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“Our agency and statewide elected State Superintendent, along with our state public health agency, strongly disagreed with this decision,” SCDE Chief Communications Officer Ryan Brown told Fox News. “The mandate on school buses is required under President Biden’s Executive Order … and was purposefully left out of our Governor’s Executive Order.”
Brown told Fox News that there is no way to mandate the use of face coverings in other areas of the school, which the SCDE had previously done.
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The bus mandate will not apply to students under two years old, students with breathing difficulties or students with special healthcare or educational needs.
The SCDE will separately encourage students who are eligible to receive a vaccine once it is available, following the new CDC guidance that the Pfizer vaccine is effective for students aged 12 to 15 years old. Moderna also claimed in quarterly reports that its vaccine is effective in adolescents of the same age group.
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“We are currently working to promote vaccinates among eligible student populations and many of our districts are offering vaccines to eligible student populations inside their school buildings,” Brown explained. “We will be working with our state public health agency to ramp up these efforts and bring greater awareness about the benefits of vaccines to eligible students.”