Mask mandates, COVID recommendations largely lifted for vaccinated in the Carolinas

By DEUCE NIVEN

tribdeuce@tabor-loris.com

     “A big step forward” in the continuing COVID-19 pandemic has been taken in North Carolina, Gov. Roy Cooper said Friday, ending mask gathering limits and mask mandates for those who have received vaccinations for the coronavirus.

     South Carolina health leaders largely echoed those orders Friday, concurring with the state’s Department of Health and Environmental Control and the federal Centers of Disease Control and Prevention recommendations on mask restrictions set down Thursday.

     We can take this step today because the science shows our focus on getting people vaccinated is working,” said Gov. Cooper. “But to keep moving forward – and to make sure that we keep saving lives – more people need to get vaccinated.”

     The ability to lift restrictions sooner than anticipated following the CDC’s guidance shows the importance of vaccinating all North Carolinians, a news release from the governor’s office said. As of this week, even more people can get vaccinated. Younger teens between 12 and 15 can now get the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine. Young people are vulnerable to the COVID-19 virus, just like everyone else, and the percent of COVID-19 cases in North Carolina children 17 and under has been increasing.”

     “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,” a news release from that agency said.

     “I am so proud of the incredible progress we have made in beating back this pandemic,” said NC Secretary of the Department of Health & Human Services Dr. Mandy K. Cohen. “Vaccines continue to be incredibly effective at protecting individuals from this terrible virus. And as more and more people get vaccinated, the results show in our stable metrics with lower cases, lower hospitalizations, and lower deaths.”

     Settings where masks are still required in North Carolina include child care facilities, schools and camps “as most children are either not yet vaccinated or are not yet eligible to be vaccinated,” Dr. Cohen said.

     Strong encouragement for mask wearing continues in most medical settings and in businesses that post mask requirement signs in North Carolina.

     Gov. Henry McMaster has already ordered the masks become optional in the public schools in that state, with an exception for school buses because of a federal mandate involving public transportation.

     Horry County Schools’ leaders this week communicated with students and parents guidelines for opting out of the mask mandate in the schools.

Vaccinations

     Gov. Cooper and Dr. Cohen each said vaccinations have proven to be more effective in curbing the pandemic than initially thought, and stressed that those who have not been vaccinated remain at risk for the various and any of its variants, some more virulent than the original strain.

     Also encouraging, they said, was approval from the CDC and the Food and Drug Administration for emergency use of the Pfizer vaccine for children between the ages of 12 and 15. That vaccine was previously approved for 16 and 17 year old’s, while the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are currently approved only for those 18 and older.

     To find vaccination locations in North Carolina visit YourSpotYourShot.nc.gov. In South Carolina visit vaxlocator.dhec.sc.gov.

COVID by the numbers

     State supplied data in both Columbus and Horry counties continue to show fewer people killed or infected by the coronavirus, tough there are enough cases to show the disease still actively present in the community.

     Columbus County recorded just seven newly confirmed cases of the virus on Friday, with daily increases from five to ten since May 4. There have been no new virus deaths in the county reported during that time period, DHHS data showed.

     Since the pandemic began at least 151 Columbus residents have died of COVID-19 associated illness, 6,344 have been infected the DHHS data showed Friday.

     Horry County, with about six times the population of Columbus, recorded 25 newly confirmed COVD cases Friday, no new deaths, DHEC data showed. Five deaths have been recorded in the county since May 4, with 93 people newly confirmed as infected by the virus in that time period, the DHEC data showed. Daily case increases have ranged from 6 to 25.

     Since the pandemic began at least 448 Horry residents have died of COVID-19 associated illness, 29,226 have been infected, the DHEC data showed.

Updates

     Look for continuing coverage on local impacts from the coronavirus COVID-19 outbreak here and in the Tabor-Loris Tribune in print and online.