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U Of SC Offers Game Tickets, Tuition as Vaccine Incentives

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Free tuition, Apple products and coveted tickets to this year's Carolina vs. Clemson game are among prizes the University of South Carolina is offering to students, faculty and staff who get vaccinated against COVID-19.

Interim University President Harris Pastides, a trained epidemiologist who once headed the university's school of public health, announced the fall semester's weekly giveaway Wednesday. Any campus member who gets vaccinated this fall or has already been vaccinated is eligible to win the prizes, which also include travel and supply grants, meal plan cards and free parking passes.

The incentives are part of a "vigorous vaccination campaign," Pastides wrote in a letter to campus members. The school is also launching a comprehensive testing plan aimed at determining positivity rates on campus and curbing the spread of the virus.

Earlier this month, Pastides ordered that face masks be worn inside all campus buildings where other people are present, though he said the masks could be removed while eating in the dining hall.

He and other school officials cited new federal and state guidance recommending that even the vaccinated should return to wearing face coverings indoors in parts of the country where the highly contagious delta variant is rapidly spreading.

But university officials quickly rolled back the requirement after state Attorney General Alan Wilson wrote that the university's mask mandate likely went against a state budget proviso that went into effect July 1. Wilson wrote that the proviso, though "inartfully worded, was intended to prohibit the mandatory wearing of masks."

State lawmakers also banned public colleges and universities in South Carolina from making the vaccine a condition of enrollment.

Young adults between the ages of 20 and 24 are the least vaccinated of all eligible age groups in the state, according to data updated Monday by the Department of Health and Environmental Control. They account for less than 5% of the more than 2.2 million residents who have been inoculated.