Story at a glance

  • The executive order allows parents of students to opt out of mask mandates imposed by school districts.
  • It prohibits local governments from relying on prior orders or using a state of emergency to enact mask mandates.
  • The order also bans state and local government agencies from requiring people to show proof of vaccination in order to receive government services or access public buildings and facilities.

South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster (R) has issued an executive order preventing school districts and local governments in the state from requiring students or residents to wear masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19. 

The executive action taken Tuesday allows parents of students to opt out of mask mandates imposed by school districts and prohibits local governments from relying on prior orders or using a state of emergency to enact mask mandates. 


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“With the COVID-19 vaccine readily available and case numbers dropping, I will not allow local governments to use the state emergency declaration as a reason for implementing or maintaining mask mandates,” McMaster said in a statement Tuesday. 

“Everybody knows what we need to do to stay safe — including wearing a mask if you’re at risk of exposing others - but we must move past the time of governments dictating when and where South Carolinians are required to wear a mask. Maintaining the status quo ignores all of the great progress we’ve made,” McMaster added. 

The governor directed the state’s health department and department of education to develop standardized forms that parents and legal guardians can sign to exempt their children from mask requirements in any public schools.

“With every adult in our state having the opportunity to receive a vaccine, it goes against all logic to continue to force our children - especially our youngest children - to wear masks against their parents’ wishes,” McMaster said. 

The governor has never imposed a statewide mask mandate but previously allowed local governments to make their own masking rules over the course of the pandemic. 

According to The State, the South Carolina Department of Education currently requires students and staff in public schools to wear masks upon entering school buildings and moving through hallways. 

The executive order also bans state and local government agencies from requiring people to show proof of vaccination in order to receive government services or access public buildings and facilities. 

The so-called vaccine passports have been floated as a way for businesses and other venues to confirm someone has been vaccinated against COVID-19 before allowing them entry, reducing the chances of spreading the virus. 

Discussions over vaccine proof has sparked pushback among those concerned about potential government overreach that could discriminate against Americans who decide not to get vaccinated. 

Recently, Republican states such as Texas and Florida have taken action to ban the use of vaccine passports, while New York has put in a place a voluntary digital passport system.


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Published on May 12, 2021