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Cola Daily file photo.

Governor Henry McMaster issued an executive order late Tuesday afternoon which gives parents the power to decide whether their children should wear masks in public schools across the state. It goes into effect immediately.

According to the statement from the governor's office, McMaster has directed DHEC to create a form for parents/guardians to sign if they'd like to opt their child out of mask requirements imposed by public school officials.

“We have known for months that our schools are some of the safest places when it comes to COVID-19,” McMaster stated. “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. Whether a child wears a mask in school is a decision that should be left only to a student’s parents.”

The order also explicitly prohibits county and local governments from relying on previous orders using a state of emergency as the basis for a local mask mandate. 

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

Lastly, the order prohibits any local government, state agency, state employee or political subdivision from requiring residents to provide proof of their vaccination status as a condition for receiving government services or gaining access to a government facility or geographic location.

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