Gov. McMaster calls on DHEC to release numbers of students, staff who test positive for COVID-19

This comes after schools in Georgia and Tennessee reported outbreaks of the virus

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WOLO) — Gov. Henry McMaster (R-SC) is calling on the state’s Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) to release data showing the impact of COVID-19 in schools once they reopen this fall.

The Governor wrote a letter to the state’s public health agency asking to reveal the numbers of students and staff who tested positive for the virus.

In the last week, several schools in Georgia and Tennessee have had to go back to virtual learning due to large outbreaks of COVID-19.

To help show if the virus has any impact in South Carolina’s schools, Governor Henry McMaster wrote a letter to DHEC Board Chair Mark Elam to reveal the numbers of students and staff who tested positive, saying in part: 

“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.”

Sherry East, the President of the South Carolina Education Association, says this is a good step, but says the turn-around time on results is crucial in order for this to work. 

“So let’s suppose you get a bunch of positive tests back on Friday, but you don’t notify school personnel on Monday or Tuesday, you let those students and staff infect more people over four days,” East said. 

Kershaw County School District Superintendent Dr. Shane Robbins says the district receives reports from local health providers each day, and plans on using the data to help with isolation and contact tracing once their school year begins September 8.

“What we can do is start keeping our own numbers that includes the number of students who test positive for COVID-19, the number of staff members who were positively diagnosed, and that at least gives you a comprehensive look of how the virus is impacting the school district and our operations,” Dr. Robbins said.

Dr. Robbins says only four of their 300 student athletes tested positive for COVID-19 this summer, but says they were exposed by family members and not by their teammates.

He says students and staff will have their temperatures checked at the door, and says his team will work hard to keep people in their schools safe.

“If the number of cases starts to increase and we have to close the buildings, we have at least provided the opportunity and then we’ll be ready to pivot into a 100% virtual environment,” Dr. Robbins said.

Kershaw County School District’s reopening plan, which has been approved by the state’s Department of Education, has three options for students: face-to-face instruction, a real-time virtual learning option, and an online model that allows students to learn at their own pace.

According to recent data released by DHEC, the disease activity in Kershaw County, as well as the other 45 counties in the state, is still reported as “high.” Based on CDC standards, DHEC recommends districts with “high” disease activity would start their school year virtually, while those with “medium” spread utilize a hybrid model.

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