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Even in red states, colleges gravitate to requiring vaccines and masks

3 6 1
10.09.2021

As students head to college this fall, hundreds of schools are requiring employees and students to be vaccinated against covid, wear masks on campus or both.

But at some schools, partisan politics have bolstered efforts to stymie public health protections.

Events at the University of South Carolina, in a deeply conservative state, demonstrate the limits of political pressure in some cases, even though "South Carolina is a red state and its voters generally eschew mandates," said Jeffrey Stensland, a spokesperson for the school.

As the fall semester approached, Richard Creswick, an astrophysics professor at the University of South Carolina, was looking forward to returning to the classroom and teaching in person. He felt it would be fairly safe. His graduate-level classes generally had fewer than a dozen students enrolled, and the school had announced it would require everyone on campus to wear masks indoors unless they were in their dorm rooms, offices or dining facilities. For Creswick, 69, that was important because he did not want his working on campus to add to the covid risk for his wife, Vickie Eslinger, 73, who has been undergoing treatment for breast cancer.

But state Attorney General Alan Wilson weighed in early in August, sending a letter to the school's interim president, Harris Pastides, that a budget provision passed by the state legislature prohibited the university from imposing a mask mandate. Pastides, who previously served as dean of the university's school of public health, rescinded the mask mandate, although he encouraged people to still use them.

"We were very upset," Creswick said.

After the university revoked its mask mandate, within days Wilson sent out a campaign fundraising letter touting his intervention in public health measures and stating, "The fight over vaccines and masks has never been about science or health. It's about expanding the government's control over our........

© Salon


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