COLUMBIA, S.C. – The Director of the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control, Dr. Edward Simmer, released the following statement concerning new mask guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):
“DHEC has reviewed the science behind the CDC’s recent mask guidelines, and we concur. South Carolinians who have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 no longer need to wear masks indoors or outdoors with a few exceptions.
As the state’s public health agency, we have a responsibility to protect the health and safety of all South Carolinians. This includes advising our residents what activities are safe for them.
Per CDC, people should still continue to wear masks when in schools, healthcare facilities, correctional facilities, homeless shelters, and on commercial transportation. Also, people who have weakened immune systems should consult with their physician to determine the best course of action for them.
Those who have not been fully vaccinated should continue to wear masks, socially distance, and take all other needed precautions to prevent COVID-19. This includes children, especially those in school. With the approval of the Pfizer vaccine for those 12 years and older, we are hopeful that as more 12- to 15-year-old children get vaccinated, this revised guidance can be extended to them as well.
This decision is based on the latest science that tells us that the currently approved vaccines are working. The risk of being infected or spreading COVID-19 once fully vaccinated is very low, and therefore wearing a mask if you are fully vaccinated is not needed.
Over the course of the pandemic, DHEC has worked with our federal partners and others to regularly monitor and review the latest data and science to support us in providing informed guidance and making decisions. We are highly encouraged and excited by this news because it means that our hard work is paying off. We would in particular like to recognize our many partners, including hospitals, clinics, pharmacies, and the many community organizations without which we would not be at this point.
Most of all, we are at this point today because of the commitment of South Carolinians to take steps not just to protect themselves, but to protect others from the disease, including wearing masks, social distancing, and getting vaccinated. Thanks to you, we have been able to increase access to critical testing to help better detect the disease in our communities and enhance availability to vaccines across all corners of our state. Today, more than 1.4 million South Carolinians are now fully vaccinated.
At the same time, we recognize that there is still much work to do in our fight against COVID-19. We still have many South Carolinians who have not had the vaccine and there is still significant spread of COVID-19 among South Carolinians who have not been vaccinated. We need to make sure every person in South Carolina has easy access to one of the very safe and effective vaccines, and reliable information on which to base their decision whether to receive the vaccine.
We are counting on all South Carolinians to use the honor system concerning their vaccination status. Full vaccination coverage is defined as receiving both doses of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccines or a single dose of the Jansen vaccine, plus two weeks. We continue to strongly encourage those who have not been vaccinated to continue to wear masks, and of course ‘Don’t Wait, Vaccinate.’
While South Carolinians who are fully vaccinated need not wear masks at this time, we recognize that not everyone is ready to take off their mask. We encourage those who would like to continue to wear masks to do so, and for others to respect their decision.
South Carolinians have a long reputation of caring for one another, and today’s announcement is as a result of all of us caring for each other. Together we are winning the battle against COVID-19.”