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SC sends $43M in Plexiglass, masks to school; promises more

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — South Carolina’s education superintendent said she has sent $43 million of protective equipment to more than 1,300 schools in the state — fulfilling every item in their requests to help them open for in-person classes during the COVID-19 pandemic.

And Superintendent Molly Spearman promised Tuesday there is enough money left in the billions of dollars the federal government sent to South Carolina for pandemic help to pay for whatever else schools ask for as she urges every school district to get children back in classrooms at least part of the time.

“You may hear some of them saying we need more things. We are telling them, let us know what you need. We have the funding to get it for you,” Spearman said.


The latest purchases include 300,000 sheets of Plexiglass, which Spearman cited health experts who have told her when combined with masks cut the distance needed to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in half to 3 feet (1 meter). The sheets are going up as barriers between students at desks and tables.

The Education Department has also bought 3.3 million masks, 87,000 face shields, 600,000 cases of disinfectant wipes, 108,000 boxes of disposable gloves and more than 41,000 gallons (155,000 liters) of hand sanitizer, Spearman said.

All that equipment combined with mask wearing, hand washing and deep cleaning of schools make them some of the safest indoor spaces in South Carolina, the superintendent said.

“Sending your child back to school is safer than them going with you grocery shopping,” Spearman said.

As the rate of new COVID-19 cases continues to alarmingly rise in the Midwest, the spread of the virus has stabilized in South Carolina. But experts said that is not a positive development, because the state is still averaging 843 new cases a day over the past week.

That’s still in the top half of the nation and similar to where South Carolina was in late August, with occasional spikes and dips. The rate of positive results from coronavirus tests still hovers above 10% most days. Experts said 5% or lower is needed to feel confident the virus is not spreading.

South Carolina has had more than 152,000 people infected with the coronavirus that causes the disease since the pandemic started seven months ago. More than 3,350 people have died, according to the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control.

And COVID-19 is still affecting schools. Presbyterian College announced Monday it is returning to only online classes for two weeks after reporting 49 people on campus diagnosed with COVID-19 The college in Clinton has about 1,100 students.

The school held a graduation ceremony delayed from last spring on Saturday with more than 200 graduates returning to campus.

Public elementary, middle and high school across the state are also keeping up with COVID-19 infections. As of last Thursday, more than 800 students and 330 teachers had the virus, health officials reported.

Spearman said it is impossible to prevent any infection and she said