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South Carolina’s teacher advocacy group vying for better masks in the classrooms

Published: Jan. 6, 2022 at 8:42 PM EST
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YORK COUNTY, S.C. (WBTV) - Better PPE. Teachers in advocacy group SCforEd want legislators and school districts to supply N95 masks for teachers, students, and staff as COVID cases continue to rise in schools.

Correction: The budget proviso in South Carolina that does not allow school districts to mandate masks is not still in effect for the rest of this school year. There was a temporary injunction put in place back in September. Schools can decide to put mask mandates in place.

”It’s very uncertain,” says Inga Carey, a teacher.

Carey has made safety a priority in her classroom. She has extra masks. She uses an oversized air purifier every single day in her classroom. She says she has to, as the music teacher sees 600 kids a week.

”I do everything I possibly can in the environment that I can control. That just gives me peace of mind,” says Carey.

That peace is now disrupted as experts say Omicron is 2.5 times more transmissible and is spreading through her school. So, teachers, like Carey, are looking to the district to provide N95 masks in the classroom, instead of the disposable ones they are sometimes getting now.

”We don’t want to have the kids go back to virtual. We understand how detrimental that is. If wearing a mask and a good quality mask would prevent quarantines and remote options that would be better for everybody,” she says.

Teachers put the call out to school districts. They have asked districts to spend some of the COVID federal money on better masks.

”I think it puts out the message that we want schools to be safe and we want schools to go on as normal as possible,” she explains.

The group is not sitting by waiting for this to happen though. They have also launched their own fundraiser, raising money to get masks for staff and teachers as they push for more action from higher-ups. SCforEd has raised almost $550 so far.

”We are trying to do something even if we see that our government officials are faltering,” she says.

WBTV asked South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control if this was the best move considering Omicron in the classrooms. The agency says a two or three-layer well-fitting masks work well but, “a proper fitting KN-95 mask is ideal in non-healthcare settings, but not everyone has this type of mask. The key thing to remember is to consistently wear a well-fitting mask to prevent the spread of COVID or its variants.”

Here is DHEC’s full statement:

DHEC continues to strongly encourage everyone who learns or works in a school setting to wear a well-fitting mask consistently and correctly when around others. Choose a mask that has two or more layers, completely covers your nose and mouth, and fits snugly against the sides of your face and doesn’t have gaps. The CDC has additional mask guidance here.

A proper fitting KN-95 mask is ideal in non-healthcare settings, but not everyone has this type of mask. The key thing to remember, is to consistently wear a well-fitting mask to prevent the spread of COVID or its variants.

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