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SC governor drops mask requirement at restaurants, state government buildings

The governor is still recommending face coverings and other protocols, such as social distancing.

COLUMBIA, S.C. — South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster is allowing rules on mask wearing at restaurants and state government buildings to be relaxed, a move in part designed to get all state workers back at the office. 

McMaster updated Friday a previous executive order on COVID-19 regulations. According to the changes, masks will no longer be mandatory at restaurants or government buildings. The governor is still recommending face coverings and other protocols, such as social distancing.

However, many local municipalities have rules about wearing face coverings inside businesses, and those are still in place, which would affect restaurants. Shortly after the governor's announcement, the City of Columbia, which has a mask mandate that's in place until at least early April, tweeted that their ordinance was still in effect.  Other cities in the state have similar measures.

Those rules would not supersede the governor's orders about state buildings. 

After the massive surge in cases, deaths, and hospitalizations in December and January, the state has seen a steady decrease in all those categories. The numbers seen now are back to their pre-winter surge levels.

RELATED: Midlands school districts begin to plan for teacher vaccinations

The governor said dropping the mandate on face masks at government buildings will allow the remaining state employees working remotely to go back to work full-time. 

“Now that the majority of South Carolinians are eligible to receive the vaccine, and infections and hospitalizations have dropped significantly, state agency heads may safely bring back the last group of state employees working remotely,” said Gov. Henry McMaster.

On Monday, March 8, South Carolina moves into what's known as Phase 1b of the vaccine rollout. That expands the list of those eligible for the vaccine to about 2.7 million, or more than half of the state. 

RELATED: Half of all South Carolinians to be eligible for vaccine next week

Among the people who can now get the vaccine are frontline workers including teachers, anyone over 55 years old, and people between the ages of 16 and 54 who have chronic conditions, including cancer, diabetes, and obesity.  

Previously, only people over the age of 65 or who were medical workers could get the vaccine. 

On Friday, McMaster visited a mass vaccination site at Darlington Raceway. This came on the same day the state received its first shipment of the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine. About 41,000 doses of that shot are expected by early next week. 

HEC Vaccine Locator:

  • Find DHEC’s online map at scdhec.gov/vaxlocator. This online map shows the locations currently accepting appointments (many of the same ones listed below) for COVID-19 vaccine and the map will provide the contact information for scheduling appointments at those locations. The map itself is not a way to schedule an appointment.
  • DHEC has a COVID-19 vaccine information line at 1-866-365-8110 The service is available from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., seven days a week People who have questions about the COVID-19 vaccines or who need help finding vaccine providers and their contact information are asked to call the DHEC COVID-19 Vaccine Information Line.
  • You can also schedule an appointment directly through DHEC's website at CVAS.DHEC.SC.GOV. Appointment availability through this scheduling tool is limited to start, but is expected to grow in the coming days.
  • You will be asked to provide a driver’s license or other form of ID at your appointment that confirms your age in order to receive vaccine.
  • South Carolina residency is not a requirement to receive a vaccine.