DHEC recommends masks for students in S.C. schools

Published: Aug. 13, 2021 at 6:01 AM EDT
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BEAUFORT, S.C. (WTOC) - More than 36,000 kids under age 10 have tested positive for the coronavirus in South Carolina since the start of the pandemic.

With many students going back to school in the Palmetto State this week, health professionals are concerned cases could be on the rise due to the highly contagious Delta variant.

Not only will kids be back in school but also extra-curricular activities are back in full swing.

Since kids under the age of 12 cannot be vaccinated yet, the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control is strongly encouraging students and staff to wear masks in school buildings.

Because masks will not be required this year, DHEC recommends talking with your children about why it is important to wear a mask even though it is not required.

“Increasingly more and more kids have had experience of knowing friends and family who have gotten very ill or been hospitalized or died so, this is a helping your community thing, this is not only keeping themselves safe, but it is keeping their friends and family safe. I think kids want to do the right thing, they want to be a good neighbor and thinking about that aspect of it with our kids will encourage them to not only wear a mask but talk to their classmates about it,” said Dr. Katy Richardson, Medical Director Low Country Region of DHEC.

There is major concern from pediatricians, not only for schools struggling to stay with in-person learning but also kids contracting the virus and spreading it to their classmates and families.

During the two surges in Beaufort County, there were no children hospitalized at Beaufort Memorial, but in the last week there have been three admissions for COVID-19 in kids.

Dr. Kurt Ellenberger says the majority of positive pediatric cases are not hospitalized. But he says for kids, especially those too young to get the COVID-19 vaccine, masks are the best option to protect the kids from not only contracting the virus but spreading it to others.

“An opting out of masking, you have a mix of vaccinated, unvaccinated, masked and unmasked, so anytime you get an infection in the school, which is going to happen, you are going to have to send multiple times more kids home to quarantine just because there are that many more people who are unmasked,” said Dr. Ellenberger.

At Beaufort Memorial, they are seeing the ages for positive cases are getting younger and the severity is getting worse. They encourage parents to get their children vaccinated if they are 12 and older and continue to wear a mask.

DHEC says with masks, social distancing, and the use of cohorts in schools, they think that will reduce the spread of Covid in schools.

About 1,000 kids under age 10 have tested positive in Beaufort County since the start of the pandemic, and DHEC expects that number to grow next week at the start of school.

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