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'Now is the time to get the vaccine,' says SC Gov. McMaster

South Carolina governor pushes for vaccines while insisting individuals have the right to refuse vaccination, wearing of masks

COLUMBIA, S.C. — South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster reiterated Tuesday that now is the time for people who want to get vaccinated to get vaccinated.

With the Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) reporting a surge in COVID-19 cases, deaths and hospitalizations, McMaster was asked repeatedly about using DHEC's protocol of vaccination and wearing face masks in order to help stop the spread of the virus.

Time and again, McMaster responded while individuals should be vaccinated, it was up to the individual to get a vaccine or to wear a mask in public.

“Parents are the best experts on their own children," McMaster said. "If they want them to wear a mask they should insist them to wear a mask, if they don’t want their child to wear a mask then they’re the expert and they should not be forced by the government to wear a mask."

When asked pointedly on his thoughts about South Carolina State Epidemiologist Dr. Linda Bell saying that masks should be used in schools since children under 12 cannot be vaccinated, McMaster said, "Parents -- regardless of what the experts say -- must be the ones to make decisions about their children."

In the latest available daily numbers, DHEC reported 2,541 new confirmed cases and 636 probable cases (total of 3,177) on Monday, August 16. There were also a total of 19 COVID-related deaths reported that day -- 17 confirmed and 2 probable.

DHEC has also recorded the number of COVID-19 cases reported in public schools -- on August 15, a total of 287 cases were reported involving 226 students and 61 employees. 

Because of the rising number of cases, Pickens School District in the Upstate, has decided to begin the school year in a totally virtual environment and SC State announced on Tuesday, August 17, that the university will be postponing the opening of its fall semester until Monday, August 23 in order to implement more stringent COVID-19 protocols.

Vaccinations are free and available for anyone age 12 years and over in South Carolina. The Pfizer vaccine has been approved for those 12 and up, the Moderna and Janseen (Johnson & Johnson) is approved for those 18 and up.