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UofSC backs out of mask policy

Pastides said the only reason he was not enforcing the mask mandate was because the law got...
Pastides said the only reason he was not enforcing the mask mandate was because the law got involved.
Published: Aug. 3, 2021 at 12:19 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCSC) - The University of South Carolina says they are backing out of their previously set policy of enforcing face coverings this coming school year.

Last week, UofSC President Harris Pastides said face coverings would be require at all times inside all campus buildings.

Following his statement, the S.C. Attorney General’s Office said the UofSC was violating the law by requiring masks at campus buildings.

On Tuesday, Pastides recanted his position but justified his previous decision. “I authorized face coverings for our university community because my top priority is the safety and health of our students, faculty and staff,” Pastides said.

Pastides cited his experience in epidemiology and the eradication of smallpox in 1980 for his previous decision.

“During my training in epidemiology, there was a maxim about transmissible diseases like COVID-19 that stated, ‘No one can be safe until everyone is safe.’” Pastides said. “I also remember the eradication of smallpox in 1980 through vaccination, as well as the effective vaccine control of polio, measles, mumps, rubella and other serious illnesses when I was a child.”

Pastides continued, ”There were some side effects to the vaccines, as there are with every medication, but without doubt vaccines have saved millions of lives. Because vaccination cannot be required in South Carolina, I felt that face coverings would go a long way in preventing the spread of the Delta variant of COVID-19, which is highly contagious, on campus.”

Pastides said the only reason he was not enforcing the mask mandate was because the law got involved.

“I did not think that the law precluded this action,” Pastides said. “The University of South Carolina received a legal opinion from S.C. Attorney General Alan Wilson stating that the General Assembly intended to prohibit public universities from requiring the wearing of masks in their buildings.”

In light of that decision, Pastides said the university would not require anyone to wear face coverings in their buildings, except when in university health care facilities and when utilizing campus public transportation.

Pastides letter said the repeal of the mandate went into effect Tuesday.

Pastides continued to strongly encourage the use of face coverings indoors, except in private offices or residence hall rooms or while eating in campus dining facilities.

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