August 3, 2021
Dear Students, Faculty and Staff,
Last week, I authorized face coverings for our university community because my top priority is the safety and health of our students, faculty and staff. During my training in epidemiology, there was a maxim about transmissible diseases like COVID-19 that stated, “No one can be safe until everyone is safe.” I also remember the eradication of smallpox in 1980 through vaccination, as well as the effective vaccine control of polio, measles, mumps, rubella and other serious illnesses when I was a child. There were some side effects to the vaccines, as there are with every medication, but without doubt vaccines have saved millions of lives. Because vaccination cannot be required in South Carolina, I felt that face coverings would go a long way in preventing the spread of the Delta variant of COVID-19, which is highly contagious, on campus. I did not think that the law precluded this action.
Yesterday, the University of South Carolina received a legal opinion from S.C. Attorney General Alan Wilson stating that the General Assembly intended to prohibit public universities from requiring the wearing of masks in their buildings. In light of this opinion, the university will not require anyone to wear face coverings in our buildings, except when in university health care facilities and when utilizing campus public transportation, effective August 3. We continue to strongly encourage the use of face coverings indoors, except in private offices or residence hall rooms or while eating in campus dining facilities.
I deeply respect all persons’ rights to make their own choices, and I respect our federal and state governments’ roles in guiding our university. I remain committed to encouraging all Gamecocks to wear face coverings and to get vaccinated for the benefit of themselves and others.