Virus Outbreak-South Carolina

South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster speaks during a news conference Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2021, in Columbia, S.C.

(The Center Square) – South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster announced Monday that South Carolina will no longer be under an emergency executive order related to the COVID-19 pandemic for the first time since March 13, 2020.

McMaster issued an executive order in May prohibiting local governments and school districts from requiring masks, but this update will end any emergency suspension of rules because of COVID-19.

“It is no longer necessary to have a state of emergency although it is still necessary for us to be smart and follow the rules and follow the guidelines and be very careful as we continue to pull out of the virus and its effects," McMaster said. “We know a lot more about it now than we did then.”

McMaster touted the work of a 30-person task force on coronavirus, saying he believed South Carolina approached the pandemic in a better way than many other states because of its work.

“While some other states took the approach of everything needs to be shutdown, they just presumed that everything needed to be closed except for those certain things that were so essential that they should remain open, we took a different approach,” McMaster said. “Our approach was that we didn’t want to shutdown anything unless we knew that it was an activity, a place, a kind of work that lends itself to the spread of the virus.

“We never did shut down in South Carolina. We slowed down. And, as a result, we now, here on the rebound, have moved ahead. We are not digging out of the hole that some of the other states. Rather, we are blasting off.”

McMaster and South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control Director Dr. Edward Simmer said South Carolina has made major strides in terms of the virus, in part because of the COVID-19 vaccine.

“I think, if you look at the numbers, we are making great progress in South Carolina,” Simmer said. “The number of cases is down, the number of patients hospitalized is down significantly from January, when we were around 1,200 cases in the hospital in South Carolina due to COVID. We are now down to around 200.

“... We will never get to make COVID-19 completely go away, but I think we will get to the point where it is something that we have to be careful with and we have to monitor but most of our citizens, it will not be a major impact on their lives.”

The work of South Carolina’s National Guard, which has 650 soldiers activated under President Joe Biden’s executive order, will not change, according to Maj. Gen. Van McCarty

The National Guard has played a role in vaccine distribution. In the state, 1.6 million residents (38.2%) age 16 and older have completed vaccination, and 1.95 million have had at least one dose.

McMaster said the vaccine is safe, proven and readily available, but it isn’t the state’s job to force vaccination on adults or to create a vaccine lottery like other states have done, he said.

“Our job is to make it available and let the people of South Carolina make up their minds what they want to do,” McMaster said. “We are not going to force them to do that.”

State Rep. Todd Rutherford, D-Columbia, had suggested the lottery.

“What we’re doing isn’t working,” Rutherford tweeted. “[South Carolina] has one of the lowest vaccination rates in the country. Ohio saw demand for the vaccine skyrocket with their lottery. I don’t care if it’s 'goofy,' I care if it gets results!”