COLUMBIA - South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster is calling on the state health department to report any COVID-19 cases among students and staff in public schools.
The Department of Health and Environmental Control should develop a process to collect and disclose cases in every school district in the state, McMaster wrote Monday in a letter to DHEC Chairman Mark Elam. Data, stripped of identifying information to comply with confidentiality laws, should be reported on a daily basis, he added.
"The disclosure of this information is in the public's interest, and it will ensure that parents, teachers and the public have accurate and authoritative information," McMaster wrote.
A spokesperson for the health agency said it intended to fulfill the governor's request.
At least 18 districts will start classes next week, according to re-opening plans approved by the state education department.
Currently, schools are only required to notify students and families who were in close contact - within 6 feet for at least several minutes - with someone who tested positive, state Department of Education spokesman Ryan Brown told The Greenville News.
In several states including Georgia and Tennessee, school districts have started to report positive cases as students returned to classrooms.
Teachers and parents have voiced concern over the potential spread of the virus in school settings, and some teachers have objected to the reopening of schools for face-to-face instruction this fall. State Superintendent Molly Spearman has required districts to offer an in-person classroom education option for students.
Spearman approved 14 district reopening plans Monday, including Sumter School District and Clarendon School District 2, the only systems in the tri-county region awaiting approval. All 81 of the state's public school districts have now been approved to begin their academic years.
State demographic data show 4% of reported COVID-19 cases are in children aged 10 or younger, and 11% are people between the ages of 11 and 20.
State health officials announced 718 new confirmed cases and 17 additional confirmed deaths Monday. South Carolina has now reported 100,431 confirmed cases and 1,966 deaths since the beginning of the outbreak.
The number of infections is thought to be far higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected with the virus without feeling sick.
South Carolina continues to rank in the top 10 states for total number of daily new cases and deaths in the last 14 days.
Also Monday, the state health department implored residents to respond to the calls and emails of contact tracers and warned against any potential scams. The health department said contact tracers will never ask for a Social Security number, financial information or immigration status.
When are tri-county school districts beginning class?
- Clarendon School District One: Aug. 17
- Clarendon School District Two: Aug. 17
- Clarendon County School District Three: Sept. 8
- Lee County School District: Sept. 8
- Sumter School District: Aug. 28
For more information, go to https://bit.ly/30KnNL9.
Source: SCDOE/The Sumter Item
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