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South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster said in an interview with FoxNews said kids “can’t learn” while wearing face masks in school, adding there is some “exaggeration” coming from health officials about the seriousness of the pandemic.
The interview aired Sunday, showing McMaster doubling down on his stance for restricting mask mandates, especially in schools.
“We’re going to let the parents decide, but there is no confusion among the parents,” he said. “We have seen what happens when these children are subjected to requiring masks so they can’t perform, they can’t learn. We’ve had enough damage to the education system already by virtual learning, which didn’t work at all. We’re really going to be digging out, all of us across the country, in these K-12 for years. But adding more fuel to the fire by requirements, which are not necessary, is not a smart thing to do, and we’re not going to do it.”
McMaster, who previously signed an executive order banning schools from enforcing masks, added he believes the best option moving forward is to give South Carolinians the choice of being vaccinated or wearing masks. He encouraged people to make an educated decision and to get vaccinated if able, but appeared to contradict health officials by saying some are engaging in hyperbole.
“We know the vaccine works, but it’s not for everybody,” he said to host Dana Perino. “We’re not going to make anybody do it, but we ask everybody to get the information from good sources and make your decision.”
McMaster and his wife, Peggy, are both vaccinated. Both tested positive for COVID-19 last year.
However, throughout the pandemic, South Carolina education and health officials said they “strongly recommend” wearing a mask while in school. Currently, only individuals ages 12 and older can get the COVID-19 shot.
In recent weeks, the state has seen a rise in cases by 250% because of the highly transmissible delta variant.
It’s occurring at the same time schools are reopening to students.
Positive cases in South Carolina are the highest recorded since February as schools are gearing up to reopen, and South Carolina is among the lowest vaccinated states in the nation at 40%.
Some hospitals are reporting being at or near capacity, and some are treating more children than when the pandemic started.
Data from the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control shows that overwhelming majority of the new hospitalizations and deaths being reported around the country are individuals who aren’t vaccinated.
“Now, the rates are going up, but they’re not nearly as high as they were last July. The hospital capacity, … those rates are not going up. There’s no danger there,” McMaster said on Fox News. “But I really think we got to stay calm. We have to put the fire out. It’s smoldering in places and could come back up, but the house is not on fire again. And that’s what a lot of the epidemiologists and experts are telling the people and it’s frightening people.”