No Mask Requirement, South Carolina Public Colleges Prepare for Fall Semester

CONWAY, SC (WMBF) – Almost 53% of eligible Southern Carolinians have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, but those aged 18 to 24 remain the least vaccinated.

With mask mandates no longer legally allowed in public schools or colleges due to a provision in the state budget, Palmetto state institutions are getting creative in their plans to try and incentivize the vaccine instead.

“The goal is to get the 18-24 age group vaccinated, and what better way to do that than to get scholarships,” said James Solazzo, vice president of student success at Coastal Carolina University.

The university still encourages the wearing of the mask on campus, but without a warrant, it hopes the chance to win scholarships in exchange for the vaccination will motivate students to get the vaccine if they haven’t already.


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At Francis Marion University, they take a similar approach, with a raffle for cash prizes.

“There will be three winners each week, each will receive a prize of $ 1,000,” said John Sweeny, vice president of communications.

Much of the security measures put in place by the CCU last year, such as ventilation and sanitation, will remain in place. But now the campus is no longer in emergency mode of operation.

Emergency operations director Carissa Medeiros said it was clear vaccines could make a difference on campus.

“Vaccines are only one tool in our toolbox, but they will give us more bang for our buck than anything else we do,” she said.

The CCU said that since the policy was announced, more than 1,000 students have sent in their immunization information. They said they expect that number to increase.

And with vaccines, procedures are relaxed.

“If we find a student, professor or staff member who has been identified as a close contact but has the vaccine and is fully vaccinated, he does not have to isolate himself,” said Medeiros.

In Hartsville, private Coker University asks everyone to keep their masks indoors. Once the campus reaches an 80% vaccination rate, only vaccinated students can remove their masks. Once it reaches 100%, the masks can come off and the campus returns to normal.

“We have vaccinated less than 40% of our returning students on campus. In the week since the announcement of this policy, we have seen this number exceed 56%, ”said Vice President of Communications Patrick Riccards.

Students must send their vaccination card to Coker or get tested within 72 hours before moving in this Friday. If they come to campus without either, they will be sent for a quick test or they will not be allowed to move in. Unlike last year, families are allowed to help students move to dorms this year.

“We don’t have to give them cash prizes and expensive gifts to do that. The students here at Coker are doing it because they want to reopen things. They take responsibility for themselves, they don’t need to be told what to do. They realize that if they get vaccinated, they can recoup their college experience, ”Riccards said.

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