The South Carolina Supreme Court, echoing other legal decisions, said that mask mandates are legal under the Palmetto State’s laws. The unanimous decision by the court’s six justices noted that the university cannot discriminate against unvaccinated students and force them to wear masks, without also requiring mask-wearing by vaccinated students.
The State newspaper reported that the University of South Carolina quickly reinstituted its mask mandate for all students after the ruling, which came several days before the first day of fall 2021 classes.
The emergency ruling came after a back-and-forth battle between University of South Carolina President Harris Pastides and state attorney general Alan Wilson. Wilson argued that the state’s most recent budget measure had prohibited a universal mask mandate at South Carolina universities, with which the South Carolina Supreme Court disagreed. Yet the emergency case was filed by University of South Carolina astrophysics professor Richard Creswick to clarify the dispute.
Pastides claimed in early July that mask-wearing is “an effective strategy in slowing the spread of the COVID-19 virus,” although there is growing evidence that mask-wearing is not as effective as politicians and public health officials will admit. The university president’s initial mask mandate exempted dorm rooms and private offices, but it did not exempt people from wearing masks indoors on campus. After Wilson sent a letter objecting to Pastides’ mandate, Pastides then nixed the policy and offered voluntary incentives such as $1,000 supply grants to vaccinated faculty or free college tuition for students.