South Carolina’s second-largest school system inserted itself in the center of a nationwide debate last week when it voted by a landslide to mandate face masks, defying the state’s ban on such measures as delta’s spread continues in the South.
It was a closed-door meeting with hospital staffers that swayed the board of trustees for the Charleston County School District, which approved the rule with an 8-1 vote on Aug. 16. Leadership from the Medical University of South Carolina came armed with data showing that even with only sports practices and summer camps underway, positive Covid-19 cases among public-school students in the last month were on track to surpass those seen in all of the fall semester of 2020. They also revealed that an increasing number of children were admitted to the hospital with severe cases, including three unvaccinated adolescents put on ventilators and a teen who died of complications related to the virus the week prior.
“We want to be in-person and we know this is not going to be easy,” said Kate Darby, the school board trustee who proposed the mask requirement, which is in effect until Oct. 15. “But we also don’t want to have any of our kids in the hospital, any of our teachers in the hospital, any of our kids not make it because of Covid.”