DHEC releases new school guidance for 2021-2022 academic year

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SOUTH CAROLINA (WSPA) — The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) released COVID-19 interim guidance for K-12 schools ahead of the 2021-2022 school year.

DHEC stated the guidance reflects the latest COVID-19 trends and is meant to protect the community, but that they might change as situations evolve. This follows new increases in COVID cases across the country.

In the recommendations, DHEC strongly recommends everyone wear masks inside schools, especially when physical distancing isn’t possible.

The agency is also calling for at least 3 feet of distance between students.

However, the new recommendations do include a contradiction to a recent laws passed in South Carolina.

Earlier this month, state lawmakers passed a law that prohibits schools and school districts from using state funds for requiring masks. Then, the state education department issued a memo stating that state-fund buses were included in that law.

Under the recommendations DHEC said, “Mask use is required on school buses and other public transportation per federal CDC Order regardless of the mask policy at school or the individual’s vaccination status; school systems should take appropriate steps to ensure compliance with this requirement by students, staff, and others.”

Other key points include:

  • Schools are strongly encouraged to work with local public health officials and healthcare facilities and professionals to provide factual information and education about COVID-19 vaccination and to increase access to COVID-19 vaccines by coordinating vaccine clinics for staff, students, and families who wish to be vaccinated.
  • DHEC strongly recommends mask use for all people when indoors in school settings, especially when physical distancing is not possible. Children under two years old, anyone who has trouble breathing, or anyone unable to remove the face covering without assistance should not wear a mask. DHEC recognizes mask use cannot be mandated per the SC General Assembly but is providing the following guidance for teachers, staff and parents.
  •  At least three feet of distance between each student should be maintained to the greatest extent possible.
  • Case investigation and contact tracing are critical strategies to identify and isolate cases and test and quarantine close contacts to reduce transmission.

To read the full guidelines, you can click here.

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