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Parents of kids with weak immune systems ‘terrified’ of school without mask mandates

Published: Aug. 18, 2021 at 7:06 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Almost 300 students and teachers across South Carolina schools have contracted COVID-19 since the start of the school year.

Hundreds of more are in quarantine because of possible exposure to the coronavirus.

State health and education leaders have attributed these numbers to the spread of the Delta variant in schools that can’t enact a mask requirement because of temporary state law.

For parents of children with weakened immune systems and or special needs, these trends are petrifying.

“I am completely terrified, I put on a strong face for my children...but on the inside, I’m so so terrified,” said mother and teacher Amanda Stockard.

One of Stockard’s children has autism, ADHD, and a weakened immune system.

“Whenever the cold season would come around, pre-pandemic, it would end up wreaking havoc on her and very quickly turn a cold into pneumonia,” she said.

However, despite being worried about her daughter getting COVID-19 at school if there are no mask requirements, she feels like she has no choice.

“I have to go to work, so she has to go to school,” she said. “If I were to quit my job we would be pretty destitute. We wouldn’t be able to pay most of our bills.”

Stockard also feels like her daughter’s education will suffer if she isn’t back in a classroom with her instructors.

“Because of her disability, she needs people trained in special education to take care of her full time, which our other families are not, which leaves us no choice but to put her in school,” Stockard said.

She just hopes her constant urging of her daughter to mask up, keep her distance from others, and wash her hands as often as possible will keep her safe.

Patricia Snelson felt forced to make a similar decision for her son.

She said her son has asthma and they have been extremely cautious over the past year and a half, but feels like she needs to send him back to school for his education and social well-being.

“A year and a half out of the classroom is too much. And it’s unfair to ask him to miss another day of in-person learning,” Snelson said.

Marissa Moses took a different approach and is exploring virtual options and homeschooling her son until he is able to get vaccinated.

Moses’ was sending her son to a private school, but she says that the school was using public school guidelines to create their own COVID-19 protocols so masks are optional.

“He’d like to see his friends, I don’t think he really wants to listen to me as a teacher, so there are mixed feelings but he understands. He gets it,” Moses said.

Her son isn’t immunocompromised but she said he often sees his grandparents and other family members with weakened immune systems.

When asked on Tuesday about how kids with weakened immune systems can safely go back to school, State Epidemiologist Dr. Linda Bell said the key is layering protection measures.

“If they are old enough get them vaccinated. If they are not yet old enough, we want to create protective bubbles around them and we say this over and over but wear a mask,” Bell said.

Gov. McMaster has repeated multiple times this week that he believes parents should decide if children should wear masks in schools. State Superintendent Molly Spearman disagrees with the Governor and said Tuesday the decision should be left to districts.

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