Winthrop University, other S.C. universities issue campus mask mandate day after state court ruling

Published: Aug. 18, 2021 at 6:10 PM EDT
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ROCK HILL, S.C. (WBTV) -Even though more people are getting vaccinated, new cases of the virus continue to increase.

Wednesday alone, more than 2500 new cases were reported in the state. With cases rising some colleges in the state are requiring students and staff to mask up. That includes Winthrop University.

Everyone on campus regardless of vaccination status, while indoor at campus facilities, must wear a mask. The mask requirement does not apply to students in their own residence hall room or faculty or staff when alone in their private offices.

A South Carolina supreme court decision made this possible. In a 5-0 vote, the justices decided the higher education institutions budget proviso does not keep universities and colleges from making students and staff wear masks. It is similar to the one keeping public K through 12 schools from mandating masks.

Winthrop Interim President George Hynd says the board decided effective immediately masks will be required inside buildings despite vaccine status. Hynd says he was “pleased to be able to exercise the autonomy we had hoped at the time.” Hynd sent a letter out earlier this month saying the university hoped to have more control over COVID protocol decisions. So are parents.

”I definitely feel more comfortable with that. I think any school or any institution like restaurants should take every precaution or effort that’s necessary,” says Malik Shakur.

Winthrop is not the only college in our area taking these precautions. The University of South Carolina at Lancaster also requires masks on campus now. USC Lancaster is a part of the USC system which required it on Tuesday.

Most of the people on campus were more than happy the school was taking steps for safety. It was a busy day on Winthrop’s campus. Students and parents unload cars, pack up carts and roll them into the dorms.

”I’m just excited to be here,” says Alexandra Halderman, a freshman.

She says her freshman year is already off to a great start after hearing the new mask news.

”It just shows that they really care about us. To know that they’re putting so much caution into protecting their students. It means a lot,” she explains.

Halderman says she would have worn her mask regardless, but the extra step of enforcement gives a clear message that masks are necessary.

”Had they not made the mandate I probably wouldn’t have felt nearly as safe on campus,” says Halderman.

It is a feeling shared between students and parents as well.

”We decided to make an effort to wear our mask regardless whether they decided to make it a choice or whether they made it mandatory,” says Maurice Mincey, a parent who helped his son, Preston, move in today.

Despite having no reservation his son would wear a mask, he was still nervous about others. With the mask mandate in place, he says he can drop his son off without worry.

”It’s not going to get any better until everyone comes together and gets on the same sheet of music so this whole crisis can come to an end,” he says.

WBTV checked with the state’s attorney general’s office to see if the ruling could possibly get appealed. A spokesperson says no appeal is expected so the ruling is here to stay.

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