Gov. McMaster encourages vaccinations, acknowledges Delta variant concerns but rejects school mask mandates

Gov. Henry McMaster says shutdowns will not return in South Carolina.
Published: Aug. 9, 2021 at 7:33 AM EDT|Updated: Aug. 9, 2021 at 10:18 AM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WBTV/WIS) - Governor Henry McMaster urged South Carolinians to get vaccinated against COVID-19, but insisted school districts should not require masks in the classroom. on Monday morning.

“The new variant the Delta there it does pose a real threat. We know that it spreads more easily,” McMaster said. “But shutting our state down, closing schools and masking children who have no choice -- for the government to mask children who have no choice to protect adults who do have a choice is the wrong thing to do. And we’re not going to do it.”

The governor held a news conference Monday morning from the Statehouse in Columbia where he acknowledged the increase in COVID-19 cases blamed largely on the Delta variant, which researchers have said is more contagious than the original strain of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

Last week, the governor said that he sees a city-enforced school mask mandate as a violation of state law.

His statement came after South Carolina’s capital city ratified an ordinance mandating the use of masks in Columbia elementary and middle schools for at least the beginning of the school year.

Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin says the move will help protect children who are too young to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

But a state budget proviso prohibits South Carolina educational institutions from using appropriated funds to mandate masks. It’s that provision that McMaster, a former prosecutor, says preempts the city’s action.

McMaster said now is a great time to get the vaccine as schools gear up to begin the new school year. He said he took the vaccine and urged others to do so as well.

“I’ve been vaccinated. I’ve believed that it works. Studies show that all of the vaccines, all three are highly effective against COVID and the new variant,” McMaster said.

South Carolina currently has reported 518,480 positive COVID-19 cases and 8,771 deaths with a daily percent positive of 16.3 percent.

Gov. McMaster says hospitalizations are nearly as bad as the winter surge of COVID-19 cases as 77 percent of hospital beds are being used.

The governor says he will not shut down the state or schools due to COVID-19.

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