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GOV: School mask mandate ‘wrong thing to do, and we’re not going to do it’

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WATCH: Gov. Henry McMaster is giving an update on the state's response to COVID-19. He is also expected to address questions about a state budget proviso designed to prevent school districts from mandating face masks.

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCSC) - Gov. Henry McMaster urged South Carolinians to get vaccinated against COVID-19 but insisted school districts should not require masks in the classroom.

“The new variant the Delta there it does pose a real threat. We know that it spreads more easily,” McMaster said. “But shutting our state down, closing schools and masking children who have no choice -- for the government to mask children who have no choice to protect adults who do have a choice is the wrong thing to do. And we’re not going to do it.”

The governor held a news conference Monday morning from the Statehouse in Columbia where he acknowledged the increase in COVID-19 cases blamed largely on the Delta variant, which researchers have said is more contagious than the original strain of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

McMaster said he took the vaccine and urged others to do so as well.

“I‘ve been vaccinated. I’ve believed that it works. Studies show that all of the vaccines, all three are highly effective against COVID and the new variant,” he said.

He said now is a great time to get the vaccine as schools gear up to begin the new school year.

This conference follows the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Controls’ announcement that 92% of the cases they have sampled have tested positive for the delta variant of COVID-19.

McMaster said Friday state law is “very clear” about mask mandates. A state budget proviso prohibits South Carolina educational institutions from using appropriated funds to mandate masks.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

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