COLUMBIA, S.C. (WBTW) — The governor’s office said Gov. Henry McMaster “will not allow for the restriction of South Carolinians in any way” when News13 asked if he would consider requiring masks a day after Los Angeles County announced it would reinstate its indoor mask mandate.
“For over a year and a half, South Carolinians have learned about the virus, they know what to do to protect themselves from it, and the vaccine is available to anyone who wants it,” said Brian Symmes, communications director for the governor’s office.
Symmes did say that South Carolinians need to be aware of the slight increase in cases and should pay attention for any symptoms they or the people around them are showing.
On Wednesday, DHEC called the rise in COVID-19 cases “alarming.”
Lead physicians with Tidelands Health and Conway Medical Center told News13 the cases are nowhere near where they were months ago, but said the pandemic is not over and guard can’t be let down.
“Three weeks ago we saw an increase of 7.5% in cases compared to the week before, followed by the next week to an 18% increase and then last week a 58% increase in number of cases,” said Dr. Brannon Traxler, director of public health for DHEC.
On Friday, DHEC reported 314 new confirmed cases in South Carolina and five deaths.
“While not alarming, it’s concerning and it tells me we’ve got to get vaccinated,” said Dr. Gerald Harmon, vice president of medical affairs for Tidelands Health and president of the American Medical Association.
Both Tidelands Health and Conway Medical Center said their currently hospitalized patients with COVID-19 were not vaccinated.
“I think this is more proof positive,” said Dr. Paul Richardson, chief medical officer at Conway Medical Center. “This thing has not gone away by any stretch of the imagination.”
“I cannot stress this enough, COVID-19 is now a vaccine-preventable disease,” Traxler said.
According to the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) vaccine dashboard, less than 44% of South Carolina residents ages 12 and older are completely vaccinated against COVID-19.
According to DHEC, the 20-24 age group has the lowest vaccination rate.
“This protects you from getting the disease, prevents you from getting sick enough to get hospitalized and insulates you from death, why not get vaccinated?” Harmon asked.
Los Angeles County — the largest one in the nation — said it would go back to requiring masks indoors due to the increase in cases.
A study done by WalletHub in March found that South Carolina had the second fewest COVID-19 restrictions in the country.