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SC State Supreme Court says UofSC can impose a mask requirement on campus

Published: Aug. 17, 2021 at 3:54 PM EDT|Updated: Aug. 17, 2021 at 7:24 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - The South Carolina Supreme Court says the University of South Carolina can impose a mask requirement on campus.

On Tuesday, the state’s high court said one of the temporary laws, or provisos, passed with the state budget, “does not prohibit a universal mask mandate.”

While most attention in the past week has been focused on Proviso 1.108, which prohibits school districts and schools from imposing mask mandates for their students, the Supreme Court looked at a second law, Proviso 117.190.

That law states: “A public institution of higher learning, including a technical college, may not use any funds appropriated or authorized pursuant to this act to require that its students have received the COVID-19 vaccination in order to be present at the institution’s facilities without being required to wear a facemask. This prohibition extends to the announcement or enforcement of any such policy.”

“Nothing in the proviso manifests the General Assembly’s intent to prohibit all mask mandates at public institutions of higher learning,” the court ruling states. “Instead, the proviso clearly prevents state-supported institutions of higher education from using funds from the 2021-2022 appropriations to fund efforts requiring only unvaccinated individuals to wear face masks.”

Attorney General Alan Wilson released a statement on the ruling saying:

“We said all along the proviso was inartfully drafted. While we disagree with the Supreme Court’s ruling, we certainly understand its rationale and anticipated this was a reading the Court could give. In fact, the Court quoted our letter to President Pastides that stated the proviso could be read another way. While the proviso was not clear, we think the legislature’s intent was, so now it’s up to the University of South Carolina to address this matter in light of the General Assembly’s position.”

University of South Carolina Interim President Harris Pastides released a statement saying that the mask requirement will go into effect immediately.

“Today’s South Carolina Supreme Court ruling clears the way for the university to require face coverings on our campus. On July 23, we were the first institution in the state to mandate face coverings. I will require the use of face coverings in our buildings, effective immediately, as an effective strategy in slowing the spread of the COVID-19 virus. Ultimately, it is the responsibility of all members of our Gamecock community to help protect ourselves and others by adopting sound public health practices as we continue our efforts to safeguard our campus against this still-evolving health concern.”

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