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All South Carolinians should wear masks indoors again, DHEC says

The CDC changed their guidance on masks due to a surge in cases.

COLUMBIA, S.C. — South Carolina's health agency says it agrees with the CDC's new mask recommendation which calls for many vaccinated people to wear mask indoors again.

The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control issued a statement hours after the CDC updated their guidance following a surge in cases nationwide. The recommendations included the following:

  • In areas with substantial and high transmission, CDC recommends that everyone (including fully vaccinated individuals) wear a mask in public indoor settings to help prevent spread of Delta and protect others.
  • CDC recommends that community leaders encourage vaccination and masking to prevent further outbreaks in areas of substantial and high transmission.
  • CDC recommends universal indoor masking for all teachers, staff, students, and visitors to K-12 schools, regardless of vaccination status. Children should return to full-time in-person learning in the fall with layered prevention strategies in place. In accordance with the previous CDC order, students are required to wear masks on school buses.

The CDC guidance is a recommendation, not a mandate, DHEC made clear. South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster added to that, saying in a statement on social media, "shutting our state down, closing schools and mandating masks is not the answer. Personal responsibility is."

RELATED: CDC reverses course on indoor masks in parts of US where COVID is surging

The South Carolina Department of Education also chimed in, saying that due to a provision of the state budget that was passed over the summer, schools cannot put in place mask mandates. 

RELATED: Updated CDC guidance: Where are masks indoors recommended again?

South Carolina, like many other parts of the country, has seen a spike in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations. In just the last three weeks, the number of people hospitalized statewide has gone from 127 to 453. 

“Today’s change in guidance from the CDC reflects the very concerning trends we are seeing nationally and here in South Carolina regarding increasing case rates and a stagnant vaccination rate,” said Dr. Brannon Traxler, DHEC Public Health Director. “As a virus spreads, it mutates into more contagious forms, which explains the rise of the Delta variant. We were hoping to reach herd immunity to stifle the spread of COVID-19 to prevent this scenario, but public health urgency now makes it necessary to return to recommending universal masking in public indoor settings.”

Right now 44.3% of South Carolinians 12 and over are fully vaccinated, which is among the lower rates in the nation.