Courtesy MUSC

State school mask mandate ban disrupts student learning, groups allege

Teachers, pediatricians and school nurses are renewing calls for state legislators to repeal a budget proviso barring schools from imposing mask mandates on students and staff.

Health care workers warned at a Tuesday news conference that legislative inaction will only make in-person learning harder, as reported by the Associated Press. More than 88,000 students and staff have been forced to quarantine since the start of school, and dozens of schools across the state have switched to online learning due to COVID outbreaks.

The budget proviso has been near universally opposed, with the state education superintendent Molly Spearman, bipartisan lawmakers, doctors, the state parent-teacher association and teacher groups all saying it prevents local school boards from deploying a critical tool in preventing the spread of the virus.

Top lawmakers have so far resisted calls to address the mask topic. Senators will return to Columbia next month for a special session on spending federal COVID-19 relief money and redistricting, but not to discuss masks.

Latest COVID-19 data

South Carolina health officials reported 2,327 total cases of COVID-19 Sept. 22, with 1,599 confirmed. A total of 85 new deaths, with 69 confirmed, were also reported Wednesday.

With 17,849 tests reported, 13.8% were confirmed positive.