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DHEC reviewing latest CDC guidance on school reopening

Published: Jul. 9, 2021 at 6:53 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCSC) - South Carolina’s Department of Health and Environmental Control said Friday it’s reviewing new guidance released earlier in the day by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as schools across the country make changes to their reopening plans due to COVID-19.

In a statement, DHEC said it is “currently reviewing the guidelines and will use them to draft the agency’s guidance for South Carolina’s schools.” The agency said it plans to share its school guidelines in the coming weeks.

The CDC’s latest update stresses the importance of in-person learning even if steps like social distancing can’t be followed and calls reopening for in-person learning this fall a priority.

It also stresses the importance of vaccinations, saying getting vaccination levels as high as possible is “one of the most critical strategies to help schools safely resume full operations.”

Since schools will naturally have populations of both vaccinated and non-vaccinated people, the CDC stressed school administrators need to consider a number of factors when coming up with COVID-related prevention strategies, including things like the percentage of people who are vaccinated, the level of community spread of the virus and the ages of students in a school.

The agency is still recommending masks and physical distancing for people who are not fully vaccinated but said administrators that want to remove prevention steps -- including masks – should remove those steps one at a time and monitor them closely.

This week, the South Carolina Department of Education said it is interpreting a mask mandate prohibition that passed through the State House as part of the appropriations bill as keeping them from requiring masks inside any educational facilities.

The department also said face masks will not be required on school buses as well. It has already stopped enforcement of mask requirements but said individual districts can still encourage people to wear face coverings.

In May, Gov. Henry McMaster issued an executive order allowing parents to decide whether their children will wear face masks in the classroom.

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