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DHEC: Guidelines crucial to keeping schools open for in-person learning

Published: Jul. 29, 2021 at 10:37 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCSC) - Leaders with the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control say while their back-to-school guidelines aren’t mandates, they are crucial to keeping schools open for in-person learning this year.

“This is the time for action,” DHEC Public Health Director Dr. Brannon Traxler said. “Schools are getting ready to start back. We are seeing sharp increases in cases. We all need to do our part now and prevent another surge.”

The state health agency is recommending all students and staff, regardless of whether they are vaccinated, wear a mask while indoors. DHEC’s guidelines also say all eligible people should get vaccinated, schools should space students out at least three feet when possible, and quarantine and isolation protocols should remain in place.

Regarding masking on school buses, DHEC noted the CDC guidelines stating everyone on public transportation should wear a mask regardless of vaccination status.

However, according to the South Carolina Department of Education, the CDC order on masking won’t be enforced in South Carolina. Dr. Traxler said mask-wearing on school buses will be up to individual districts.

Traxler said the Delta variant is also worrying her as children get ready to go back to learning in person.

“Summer camps showed us that this Delta variant is increasing across the state and is so much more easily spread among children and we are seeing more and more cases likely because this variant is becoming the dominant one and spreads so easily,” she said.

The Palmetto State Teachers Association is supportive of the DHEC guidelines but is worried about what will happen if people don’t adhere to them.

“Any failure by citizens of South Carolina to heed the advice of public health officials is going to prolong this pandemic,” said PSTA Director of Government Affairs Patrick Kelly. “The longer we prolong it the more difficult it will be to keep schools open consistently and for students to avoid quarantining.”

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