CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - Gov. Henry McMaster said he was concerned that a large amount of school districts in South Carolina are not providing a 5-day in-person option to parents, saying that if he had the the power to do so he would have issued an executive order.
“If a parent wants to send their children back to school, or if they want to keep the child at home, they should have the choice,” McMaster said."They shouldn’t have to choose between their child or their job."
According to the governor, 19 school districts began the school year with their classrooms open five days a week. However, McMaster said a large number of school districts chose not to provide parents with the option.
“Parents are not happy. I’m not happy. I don’t know anybody who is happy about this,” McMaster said.
McMaster said his office has been flooded with calls from parents and concerned citizens regarding the issue, and said there was a sense of frustration across the state.
“If state law allowed me as governor to require school districts to provide in person instruction, five days a week, as an option, I would have issued the executive order months ago,” McMaster said.
The governor does not have the authority to require school districts to provide face-to-face classroom learning 5-days a week, but McMaster said he is going to help schools who currently have the option of classroom learning.
McMaster is recommending to the General Assembly that up to $50 million be authorized to reimburse public schools and charter schools providing five-day in-person classes for COVID-19 related costs
“South Carolina is returning to normal because people have returned to their workplace following precautions designed to keep them healthy and working,” he said. “I believe schools are no different.”
Officials with the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control said COVID-19 vaccines in the state will be limited at first with priority given to frontline medical personnel and residents at nursing homes.
DHEC Immunization Director Stephen White said during a Thursday afternoon press conference that as vaccination production ramps up and additional vaccines complete the approval process, there will be sufficient doses available nationwide that the state will be able to open up vaccinations to the general public.
According to White, the COVID-19 vaccination process consists of individuals taking two doses of the vaccine.
McMaster also unveiled more recommendations to the General Assembly for how the Phase II expenditure of CARES Act funds should be invested.
The governor’s recommendations include $450 million to replenish the Unemployment Trust Fund, $45 million in grants for small businesses and non-profit organizations that did not receive federal Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans, and $93 million to reimburse DHEC and MUSC for their continued COVID-19 efforts.
The governor also recommends $50 million to be reimbursed for public school districts and charter school for COVID-19 related costs incurred by reopening, and $100 million to be reimbursed to state agencies with verifiable COVID-19 related expenses.
“As you are aware, the AccelerateSC task force conducted a thorough review of the CARES Act and made expenditure reimbursement recommendations for COVID-19 prevention efforts, and for measures for returning our state’s economic engines to full speed,” the governor writes.
Officials with the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control on Thursday reported 264 newly-confirmed COVID-19 cases and with a percent-positive less than half of Wednesday’s percentage.
The percent-positive result in Thursday’s report dropped to 6.0%, down from 14.3% reported Wednesday.
This brings the total number of confirmed cases to 124,397, probable cases to 2,195, confirmed deaths to 2,823, and 152 probable deaths.