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Michelle Liu/Associated Press/Report for America

  • Health care workers and educators in South Carolina are doubling down on calls for lawmakers to roll back a provision that bans masks in schools. Pediatricians, school nurses and teachers on Tuesday described the toll the coronavirus pandemic is taking on students and in children's hospitals. They want lawmakers to repeal a state rule that prevents school districts from using state money to enforce a rule requiring masks. More than 88,000 students and staff have been quarantined this school year so far. Schools have recorded nearly 21,000 COVID-19 cases this fall, almost 7,000 more than they counted all of last year.
  • In the past few weeks, South Carolina has set records for COVID-19 hospitalizations and new cases have approached peak levels of last winter. Classes, schools and entire districts have gone virtual, leaving parents frustrated and teachers quitting weeks into the school year. Republicans backed a provision to ban masks in schools in June when cases were low and have not budged. Now teachers, students and parents are struggling with the fallout as more young people contract the delta variant, forcing nearly two dozen schools and two entire districts back to online learning within a month of returning in person.
  • The National Guard is sending help to a South Carolina hospital system where a surge in COVID-19 patients is overwhelming emergency departments. Tidelands Health says it needs the extra hands because both of its hospitals have topped 100% capacity and emergency rooms now serve as holding areas when beds aren't available. The state is averaging 5,300 cases per day, nearing January's record high case numbers. Doctors with Prisma Health are worried upcoming Labor Day gatherings could push more hospitals beyond capacity. They say schools that aren't enforcing virus prevention measures and fall football crowds could keep virus spread high.
  • South Carolina's highest court on Thursday tossed out a school mask mandate in Columbia, saying it contradicts a state budget measure aimed at preventing face covering requirements.
  • Gov. Henry McMaster and transportation officials say the state should use $360 million of its federal pandemic relief funds to jumpstart the widening of Interstate 26. The state already plans to expand parts of the 70-mile stretch between Columbia and Charleston. But officials say an influx of cash would speed up the process by six years and help save the state money in construction costs. The heavily-trafficked corridor has seen regular accidents and delays as motorists mingle with trucks taking goods to and from the Port of Charleston. Lawmakers will likely decide whether to include the I-26 project in the state's $2.5 billion share of federal COVID-19 money this fall.
  • South Carolina's highest court is considering two challenges to a state rule limiting the ability of school districts to require masks for students and educators. The state Supreme Court heard arguments Tuesday over the state legislature's June decision to write a state budget item threatening school districts with withholding state money if they required masks. The city of Columbia and Richland 2 School District both oppose the measure. Their lawyers argued that a mask prohibition doesn't belong in the state budget as state law requires legislation to have one clear subject. Attorneys for the state said lawmakers can ban or allow masks because state funds pay for the salaries of teachers enforcing such mandates.
  • South Carolina’s top prosecutor on Thursday sued the state’s capital city over a school mask mandate that officials allege violates state law.
  • The South Carolina Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that a mask mandate instituted by the University of South Carolina last month doesn't violate a state budget proviso. University officials withdrew the rule requiring masks inside campus buildings earlier this month after state Attorney General Alan Wilson opined that the mandate was "likely not consistent with the intent of the Legislature." Wilson cited a budget proviso that the high court has now interpreted to mean public universities and colleges can't enforce a mask mandate that only applies to the unvaccinated.
  • Hundreds of South Carolina students are already quarantined for COVID-19 at the start of the fall semester as the delta variant has led to a surge in cases. That's prompting some local governments to consider whether to require masks in schools in spite of a state budget proviso that bans districts from doing so without risking funding. Richland County Council is expected to vote Monday evening on an emergency ordinance to require the face coverings in schools and day cares. It could join the city of Columbia in doing so.
  • A South Carolina pharmaceutical company that has offered COVID-19 vaccines since February will now require all of its own employees to get inoculated. Nephron Pharmaceuticals Corp. will mandate all of its nearly 2,000 workers be fully vaccinated or have started a two-dose vaccine series by Aug. 27. Details of the requirement were shared with The Associated Press ahead of an official announcement Monday.