Jeffrey Collins / AP
South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster issued a coronavirus warrant on Tuesday preventing schools and local governments from creating mask warrants. His order also bans the use of so-called “vaccine passports” in the state.
Under the 15-page executive order, parents – not public school officials or school districts – will decide whether their student wears a mask in class.
“We have known for months that our schools are among the safest places when it comes to COVID-19,” McMaster said in a statement. “With every adult in our state having the opportunity to receive a vaccine, it flies in the face of logic to continue to force our children – especially our youngest children – to wear masks against their parents’ will.
McMaster directed the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control, in consultation with the state Department of Education, to develop and distribute a standardized form that parents and legal guardians can sign to remove their child from mask requirements.
County or other local government governments in South Carolina are also explicitly prohibited from relying on past public health orders or using a state of emergency to demand masks.
“Everyone knows what we need to do to stay safe – including wearing a mask if you risk exposing others – but we need to move past the time when governments dictate when and where Southern Carolinians should wear a mask. “, McMaster mentioned. “Maintaining the status quo ignores all the great strides we have made.”
Tuesday’s decree also explicitly prohibits “any local government, state agency, state employee or political subdivision of state” from requiring residents to provide proof of their immunization status.
Vaccine passports have been touted as a way to allow people to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination to access certain events, businesses, or travel.
McMaster called such a requirement “non-American in essence”.
COVID-19 cases in South Carolina have trended downward, as in much of the rest of the country, state data shows. As of Tuesday afternoon, the state was reporting a 4.1% positivity rate and 95 probable cases of the virus. McMaster’s executive order also states that 43% of eligible adults in South Carolina have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine so far.
Despite the downward trend in confirmed cases, public health officials have warned against reopening and abandoning face covers too soon.
National trends show that patients hospitalized with COVID-19 are now predominantly young and middle-aged adults.
Masks have been shown repeatedly to prevent the spread of COVID-19, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention still recommends that people wear them, even if they have been vaccinated.
South Carolina joins Florida in easing restrictions on coronaviruses. Florida Governor Ron DeSant last week struck down county and city rules requiring face masks or imposing social distancing guidelines.
New York, New Jersey and Connecticut have all announced in the coming weeks that they will also end most COVID-19 restrictions.