COLUMBIA, S.C. — South Carolina students will again be required to wear masks on school buses starting Monday as COVID-19 cases among children and students are rising rapidly.
The state Education Department told schools in July they did not have to make students on buses wear masks. But the agency changed its mind in a letter Thursday, bringing it into line with federal health rules about masks on buses.
Education Superintendent Molly Spearman said the delta variant of COVID-19 appears to be spreading quickly in children and more must be done to keep students safe and schools open.
Districts who need masks will get them by the end of the weekend to pass out to students who board buses without a face covering. Drivers can’t kick a student off a bus for not wearing a mask.
Spearman’s letter does not change the mask ban in schools and classrooms passed in the state budget by the General Assembly.
Nearly 30% of new COVID-19 cases in South Carolina in the past two weeks have been in people age 20 and under. During the same time in 2020, about 17% of cases were in that age group, according to data from the state Department of Health and Environmental Control.
Currently, only people age 12 or over can be vaccinated against COVID-19. People ages 12 to 20 make up a little over 10% of the state population, but just 7% of the people who have gotten at least one shot.
Health officials Thursday reported 56 COVID-19 deaths, the highest numbers of deaths in a day since mid-March, when the worst peak of the pandemic so far was winding down.
South Carolina is now averaging more than 4,200 new COVID-19 cases a day. The only time the state was reporting more new cases was for three weeks at the height of the pandemic in January.
(WATCH BELOW: Chester County Schools’ mask mandate challenges SC law, defies McMaster)
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