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Face masks work, are slowing virus in South Carolina, data shows

The state's health agency says there's proof that in areas where masks are required the virus spread is going down.

COLUMBIA, S.C. — Masks are helping to slow the spread in parts of South Carolina that have ordinances in place, according to new data released by the state's health agency, while those areas that don't require coverings are seeing increases in cases. 

The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control released new data Wednesday.

“This new data shows us what we already knew, wearing face masks works,” said Dr. Linda Bell, S.C. State Epidemiologist. “We’re strongly supportive of these local leaders’ initiatives that are centered on protecting the health and wellbeing of their communities.”

The South Carolina Emergency Management Division has released a regularly updated map showing the counties and municipalities that currently have mask requirements in place, which is available on the home page of scemd.org. SCEMD’s map shows jurisdictions where masks are required by ordinance and where masks have been recommended by proclamation from local elected officials.

According to DHEC, an analysis of local mask ordinances shows the following:

  • As of this week, nearly 40 percent of residents, or approximately 2,000,000 South Carolinians, reside in jurisdictions that have local mask requirements in place.
  • When comparing the jurisdictions that have mask requirements in place to those that don't, the jurisdictions with mask requirements have shown a 46.3 percent greater decrease in the total number of cases during the four weeks after the requirements were implemented.

“We will be in a much better position in four to six weeks if South Carolinians practice physical distancing and use a mask,” Bell said. “Together, we can completely reverse our fortunes and create safe environments for our business recovery, for our lifestyle recovery, and particularly for our students returning to school in a few short weeks, but we must act more aggressively, and now.”

Data analysis also shows:

  • Those jurisdictions with mask requirements in place have seen an overall decrease of 15.1 percent of total cases for the four weeks after the requirements were implemented compared to before the requirements were in place. This is an overall decrease of 34.6 cases per 100,000 people from before the mask requirements to after.
  • During the same time frame, those jurisdictions without mask requirements have experienced an overall increase in total cases of 30.4 percent, as well as an average increase of 24.1 cases per 100,000 people when compared to jurisdictions with a mask requirement in place.

“The residents in jurisdictions that acted first are seeing the benefits earlier,” Bell said. “This shows the sooner prevention measures are adopted, the sooner we all benefit.”

DHEC says to reduce the spread of COVID-19, South Carolinians should:

  • Practice social distancing
  • Wear a mask in public
  • Avoid group gatherings
  • Regularly wash your hands
  • Stay home if sick

For the latest information related to COVID-19 visit scdhec.gov/COVID-19. Visit scdmh.net for stress, anxiety and mental health resources from the S.C. Department of Mental Health.

RELATED: SC school districts to get $10 million for masks, protective equipment

Coronavirus Daily Numbers Update:

The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) today announced 712 new confirmed cases and 19 new probable cases of the novel coronavirus COVID-19, 45 additional confirmed deaths and one new probable death.

This brings the total number of confirmed cases to 102,143, probable cases to 831, confirmed deaths to 2,057, and 87 probable deaths.

Confirmed and probable cases: please click here.
Confirmed and probable deaths: please click here.

Credit: SCDHEC

Testing in South Carolina

As of Tuesday, a total of 857,773 tests have been conducted in the state. See a detailed breakdown of tests in South Carolina on the Data and Projections webpage. DHEC’s Public Health Laboratory is operating extended hours and is testing specimens seven days a week, and the Public Health Laboratory’s current timeframe for providing results to health care providers is 24-48 hours

Percent Positive

The total number of individual test results reported to DHEC Tuesday statewide was 3,627 (not including antibody tests) and the percent positive was 19.6%.

More Than 145 Mobile Testing Clinics Scheduled Statewide

As part of our ongoing efforts to increase testing in underserved and rural communities across the state, DHEC is working with community partners to set up mobile testing clinics that bring testing to these communities. Currently, there are 145 mobile testing events scheduled through September 29 with new testing events added regularly. Find a mobile testing clinic event near you at scdhec.gov/covid19mobileclinics.

RELATED: Antibody drugs to treat COVID-19 could roll out by early fall

Residents can visit scdhec.gov/covid19testing for information about getting tested at one of 227 permanent COVID-19 testing facilities across the state.

Hospital Bed Occupancy

Since July 22, the federal government has required hospitals nationwide to report data directly to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services through a new TeleTracking system, which replaces the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)’s National Healthcare Safety Network system that had been used initially by hospitals for reporting COVID-19 data.

Hospitals report their information each day to HHS by way of TeleTracking, and that same reporting is also provided to DHEC. Click here to view data from today's TeleTracking report.

For the latest information related to COVID-19 visit scdhec.gov/COVID-19. Visit scdmh.net for stress, anxiety and mental health resources from the S.C. Department of Mental Health.