LANCASTER COUNTY, S.C. (WJZY) – A 16-year-old South Carolina student died of COVID-19 Thursday, according to the Lancaster County Coroner’s Office.
Chief Deputy Coroner Jennifer Collins confirmed Friday that the Andrew Jackson High School teen “succumbed to COVID-19.”
“We are saddened to learn of the passing of a 16-year-old Andrew Jackson High student from COVID complications,” said a statement from Lancaster County School District Superintendent Jonathan Phipps. “Counselors are available to staff and will also be available to students on the first day of school, Monday, August 16 and through the week.
The school district added that they continue to follow guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as the state health department, and prioritize student safety.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with the student’s family,” Phipps said in the statement.
Phipps told CNN that before the first day of school Monday there were already 21 students in the district with COVID-19 and another 58 in quarantine. He added that there were also 20 cases of COVID-19 among staff members with another 40 in quarantine.
The state of South Carolina has reported a recent rise in coronavirus cases and hospitalizations.
The state’s top disease specialist said this week that the state is heading in the wrong direction when it comes to COVID-19 spread.
“I have never been more concerned about the health of our state than I am today,” said State Epidemiologist Dr. Linda Bell.
South Carolina’s vaccination rate remains below the national average. The state legislature has also passed a law banning local school districts and cities from instituting mask mandates.
Governor Henry McMaster has remained defiant about the state’s school mask mandate ban, despite pushback from some parents and school districts.
“It seems to many of us that it’s not right that a child, who has no voice, should be required to wear a mask to protect adults who certainly do have a voice,” said McMaster.
Bell said having unmasked students and staff together could be a dangerous mix as many students prepare to head back to class Monday.