CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - Masks in classrooms are a hot button issue this week with parents rallying outside school board meetings and Gov. Henry McMaster demanding mask mandates be removed.
Laurel Glover, the infection control/COVID-19 coordinator at Charleston Southern University credits the masks for keeping classrooms safe throughout the pandemic.
“We have been able to avoid cases traced back to the classroom,” Glover said. “That’s because our students and our faculty have done a really good job masking and distancing physically in the classroom. So even if we had someone symptomatic or sick attending class, they didn’t create close contacts with someone in the classroom.”
That covers a time from August to April in which not a single case of COVID was traced back to classrooms. Glover says the plexiglass barrier, social distancing rules, and of course masks led to a successful year of face-to-face classes.
“That speaks to the caliber of students that we have here. They were willing and able to be flexible even though we are all tired of COVID and adhere to the policies we put in place,” Glover said.
This is not to say the campus was COVID-free.
They had dozens of cases on and off campus during the year just none that were traced back to the classroom. So how do they determine the source of transmission?
“When we have an active case in one of our students, faculty or staff members part of what happens is I do an interview with them. We go back and see for the 48 hours prior to them becoming symptomatic or testing positive who did they have close contact with. What classes where they in?” Glover said. “In those classes were they able to maintain their distance or where they able to adhere to all of the policies that were put in place?”
Glover says the data is encouraging and she is hopeful the safety measures they implemented this year will not need to come back for next year.
“I would love possibly more than anyone else on this campus for those things to go away,” Glover said. “I think that our ability to remove some of those precautions is going to rely on herd immunity and we are not there yet. Certainly, we will be able to have a little bit more flexibility in the fall but how much, I just don’t know yet.”
Glover says vaccination rates will be huge part in determining what precautions will be in place next year.
They have no plans to require students to get vaccinated but will continue to encourage it.