Gov. McMaster says Midlands school district is a ‘model’ for handling the COVID-19 pandemic

South Carolina News

South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster looks at data about the COVID-19 spread in the Kershaw County School District during a discussion with school officials at Camden Elementary School on Wednesday Sept. 15, 2021, in Camden, S.C. Nurses, principals and school board members were part of the roundtable discussion. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Collins)

CAMDEN, SC (WSPA) — Officials with the Kershaw County School District said the number of new weekly COVID-19 cases among students and staff are declining.

Governor Henry McMaster (R-South Carolina) visited Camden Elementary School to hold a round table with school officials to discuss their COVID-19 mitigation tools.

Superintendent Dr. Shane Robbins said new cases peaked on August 20th. This is about two weeks after classes started in Kershaw County. Since then, numbers of students isolated for positive COVID-19 cases and quarantines have gone down.

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COVID-19 Data in Kershaw County School District (Source: KCSD)

He said, “Our data tells us our community is doing an amazing job in keeping our buildings open.”

Superintendent Robbins credits this to their layered approach to COVID-19. Officials said they have implemented temperature checks, are using isolation rooms for sick students, and keeping students three feet apart. Some of these measures were in place last school year as well.

Nurses at their schools are also spending a lot of their time contact tracing they said. District Nurse Elizabeth Starling said they review school bus surveillance video to find close contacts.

Governor McMaster said other school districts should implement some of these mitigation tools. He said, “Everything doesn’t work for everybody. This is working. What they’ve done here using the full team approach with great community support, staff support, and great nurses and using that data on a daily basis, the facts, the numbers.”

Dr. Robbins said they encourage vaccinations and masks. During the roundtable, principals said they have noticed more students are getting the vaccine and wearing masks to avoid being forced to quarantine.

Masks remain optional for students and staff at Kershaw County schools. A one-year state law bans a face covering requirement to be enforced and implemented with the use of state funds in public schools.

The CDC and SC DHEC recommend universal masking in schools to prevent the spread of COVID-19. They also said this would cut down on the number of quarantines.

There have been calls for lawmakers to repeal the proviso and allow school districts to decide whether or not to mandate masks.

Dr. Robbins was asked by reporters following the roundtable if he would like to have the option to mandate masks. He said, “We’re a county school district so it really varies across our county and community on what we’re seeing. Is it a tool I’d like to be able to use? Yes, possibly. But it’s not one I feel like we need to mandate in our schools right now.”

Governor Henry McMaster said he believes parents should decide whether or not their child wears a mask in schools.

“What has been done here is demonstrating you do not need to force people to do things to make great progress,” he said.

DHEC announced Wednesday they are updating how they’re tracking COVID-19 cases associated with schools in South Carolina. They say since the start of the new school year, 21,000 students have been isolated as a result of testing positive for COVID-19. More than 86,000 students have been quarantined due to being close contacts.

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