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WH Press Secretary: SC politicians should ‘get out of the way’ of health experts on COVID mitigation

Published: Sep. 13, 2021 at 9:41 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - The White House Press Secretary addressed Gov. McMaster’s COVID-19 response directly Monday in a one-on-one interview with WIS.

Jen Psaki said some of the stances McMaster and other South Carolina politicians are taking to limit mask mandates and to push back against federal vaccine and testing requirements are “head-scratching”.

“If you don’t want to help save more lives then get out of the way and let school experts, health experts take steps they need to save more kids, save more school administrators, and put in place precautions that makes sure kids can go to school safely this year,” Psaki said.

In August, the U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona criticized South Carolina’s temporary state law limiting mask requirements in schools and said his department will closely monitor whether SC is meeting its federal requirements.

RELATED STORY | Secretary of Education says SC ban on school mask mandate putting student’s safe return to classrooms at risk

“South Carolina’s actions to block school districts from voluntarily adopting science-based strategies for preventing the spread of COVID-19 that are aligned with the guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) puts these goals at risk and may infringe upon a school district’s authority to adopt policies to protect students and educators as they develop their safe return to in-person instruction plans required by Federal law,” Cardona said.

When asked what the next steps the Biden Administration is prepared to take in response to this limit on mask requirements, Psaki said they are prepared to support schools who may need it.

“We are going to have your back from the federal government. If you have the courage to put to place requirements that are going to protect students in your schools, teachers in your schools, school personnel we are going to make sure that you get the pay you deserve. We are going to use every legal tender at our disposal to have your back and that’s what the Secretary of Education conveyed,” she said.

In response to Psaki, a spokesperson for McMaster criticized the White House by saying the Biden Administration believes the only mitigation measure needed in schools is a mask mandate, and the Governor, “fundamentally disagrees.”

“President Biden may be willing to abdicate his duties and let others make decisions for him, but Governor McMaster isn’t. Governor McMaster recognizes that his job is to make the tough decisions – not to rely on someone else to do it for him,” the Governor’s Communication Director Brian Symmes said in a statement. “The bottom line is that a child’s parents are the ultimate experts when it comes to that child’s health, and nobody should be able to tell them that what they think is best for their child doesn’t matter.”

Psaki also addressed McMaster saying he will fight the White House “to the gates of hell” over the vaccine requirements and rules President Biden announced last week.

“We believe we are standing on firm legal ground which is a 50-year law and is meant to protect people in workplaces across the country,” she said. “By process of elimination, we are more confident in our legal standing than theirs.”

After being asked what her message is to McMaster and the SC General Assembly, Psaki returned to her earlier point.

“They don’t have to support it, but get out of the way for schools and superintendents to do the right thing and protect kids and make sure parents are comfortable with their kids going back to school,” she said.

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