Spearman: ‘We have to do what’s right’ on COVID-19; doctors urge vaccination, masking in schools

Published: Aug. 17, 2021 at 7:47 AM EDT|Updated: Aug. 17, 2021 at 4:41 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCSC) - South Carolina Education Superintendent Molly Spearman urged people Tuesday to take COVID-19 seriously.

She said the state now has “real-life statistics” to show that the virus is spreading among children where it was not before.

Spearman again criticized the temporary law the General Assembly passed in the state budget prevents school districts from implementing mask mandates. She said she believes decisions on mask mandates are best handled by local school boards.

“We have two ways now to make that happen,” Spearman said. “Either the legislature comes back in and I have asked him to do that continually; or this ends up in court and the courts resolving it. I disagree with the governor on this.”

She said she trusts medical professionals when they say we should put masks on.

“And even with that, you know we can’t, we’re not guaranteed that there won’t be transmission but at least we can say we’re doing everything possible,” Spearman said. “So I do believe it and that’s why I’m here today to say, ‘Yes, I think we need to put on our masks and everybody who’s eligible needs to get vaccinated.”

State Epidemiologist Dr. Linda Bell said the role of health professionals at the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control is to focus on basic principles of communicable disease control.

“I wanted to mention that specific studies have been done that demonstrate that when we follow these basic principles, yes, we can have in-person school safely,” Bell said.

Spearman spoke after a group of medical experts who pleaded with parents to get eligible children vaccinated and to have them wear masks in the classroom.

Associate Professor of Pediatrics Dr. Annie Andrews said more than 4 million children and adolescents have been infected with COVID-19.

“In the U.S. in the last week alone, over 121,000 children were positive,” she said. “In the U.S., the risk of deaths from COVID among children is low. However, it can cause serious disease and long-term adverse health effects.”

“Masks and vaccines help to protect our children,” Dr. Deborah Greenhouse, a past president of the South Carolina Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, said. “When it comes to your child’s health, please don’t rely on social media for advice. Ask the healthcare expert who knows you and knows your child, your pediatrician.”

She said they recommend COVID-19 vaccinations for children above 12 years of age and for parents, grandparents, teachers and everyone who interacts with young children.

“We believe that safe in-person learning is the best for all children,” Greenhouse said. “Scientific studies demonstrate that masking does not cause negative effects on either mental health, or on learning.”

Spearman was joined by South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control Epidemiologist Dr. Linda Bell as well as members of the South Carolina Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

That new conference follows Governor Henry McMasters’ ban of mask mandates and several school boards voting against his order to mandate masks.

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