Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

The enormity of anti-science fervor in the Republican-controlled South Carolina legislature that will keep students, most unvaccinated, from wearing masks is mind-blowingly ignorant. 

Brack

As a result, too many children will get or spread coronavirus — now worse than last year at this time because of a new, more contagious strain — and more will suffer. Children and more adults may die, thanks to the lame-brained GOP General Assembly’s lockstep denial of science.  

“No school district, or any of its schools, may use any funds appropriated or authorized pursuant to this act to require that its students and/or employees wear a facemask at any of its educational facilities.” That’s the policy in the current state budget.

Make no mistake: Conservative lawmakers didn’t simply use a procedural, one-year budget proviso to say no to masks as they bowed to their holy mantra of personal freedom. They did it intentionally to push a narrow political viewpoint without regard to the health, welfare or safety of South Carolina’s students and parents.

It’s pitiful and it’s going to come back to bite South Carolina’s butt. Don’t look for the pandemic, now surging again with double-digit rates of positive tests, to ebb anytime soon. The rush to return to normal will keep normal from returning anytime soon.

What’s unfortunate is that state legislators are unlikely to take corrective action in a coming special session even though the nation is starting to “mask up” again following a revised guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It recommends that vaccinated Americans wear masks again inside in places where the virus is raging, such as South Carolina.

“It’s such a political issue now, I doubt the legislature would wade into it knowing the governor would veto,” said one senior GOP source in South Carolina who asked not to be named.

House Democrats aren’t happy with what has transpired.

“To be clear, the Budget Proviso 1.108, prohibiting masks requirements in public schools, was passed with Republicans votes only in the House,” Columbia Democratic Rep. Wendy Brawley told Statehouse Report, City Paper‘s sister publication. “I, along with other House Democrats, voted against the proviso because we believe that locally elected school boards should make those safety decisions. 

It is my sincere hope that my Republican colleagues will reverse the proviso and allow school districts to do what is necessary to ensure the safety of students, teachers and staff in public schools. Political posturing should not compromise student safety!”

Republicans, including Gov. Henry McMaster who has been leading the anti-mask effort, whine mask-wearing should be voluntary and up to parents, not the government.

Hogwash. It’s government’s responsibility to ensure the safety of all of its citizens from enemies domestic and foreign — including the virus that has infected more than 500,000 South Carolinians, wreaked untold havoc on families and cost billions of dollars.

What’s so bloomin’ conservative about a simple thing like wearing a mask when the financial costs to society skyrocket just to deal with the devastating outcomes? Why is the GOP so bloody scared about a little shot that’s almost universally effective at dampening the virus?

You don’t hear caterwauling about bringing a car to a halt at stop signs or getting car insurance to have the privilege to drive. Or as our friends at the Greenwood Index-Journal sarcastically wrote this week, why should the state even have health regulations?  

“If restaurant owners want to store food in non-refrigerated containers, let mold form in ice machines and not require employees to wash their hands before handling food and after bathroom visits, so what? They have rights, too. DHEC should get the heck outta the business of these struggling restaurateurs. Taking chances with your health by patronizing those restaurants is, after all, your choice. Just like wearing a mask or getting a vaccination.”

Republicans have led this state for more than two decades.  With the anti-leadership they are showing from top to bottom in South Carolina, it is truly time to throw the bums out.

Andy Brack is publisher of the Charleston City Paper. Have a comment? Send to: feedback@charlestoncitypaper.com.