COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) – As COVID cases continue to rise in South Carolina and the delta variant spreads, DHEC said even vaccinated people should consider wearing a mask.
The department still recommends unvaccinated people mask up indoors or in crowded, outdoor settings.
“Even if they all got vaccinated today, it would be weeks before they had full protection from those vaccines,” Dr. Jane Kelly, DHEC’s assistant state epidemiologist, said. “The fastest thing we can do to decrease the exponential growth of the delta variant is to begin wearing masks today.”
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert, said Sunday that adjusting guidelines to recommend fully vaccinated people wear masks is “under active consideration” by federal public health officials. The CDC currently advises those who are not fully vaccinated continue to mask up.
Kelly said the guidance in South Carolina for fully vaccinated people to consider wearing a mask is to protect those who are not fully vaccinated and make up more than half the state’s population at this point.
“Nationwide, more than 97% of the cases that have been hospitalized in the past month with COVID-19 were among people who were not vaccinated,” Kelly said. “So the fact that we’re suggesting wearing a mask doesn’t undermine the vaccine. The vaccines are highly effective. I want to emphasize how important that is.”
Most businesses in Columbia’s Five Points neighborhood no longer have signs posted requiring customers to wear a mask inside. In about three weeks, around 30,000 potential new customers will return to the popular district as the University of South Carolina’s fall semester begins.
While the City of Columbia stopped enforcing its mask mandate in May, two businesses —Drip Coffee and Revente Luxury Resale — said they ended their own requirements once all their employees who wanted to be vaccinated had the opportunity.
Revente owner Heather Burns while she would consider requiring masks for staff, if the need arises again, she won’t require them for customers unless the city reinstates its mandate.
“That was a bit of a struggle,” Burns said. “You know, people feel very strongly about the masks, and they either want to wear them or they don’t, and there came a point where we had to be like, we’re not going to argue with customers who don’t want to wear it.”
Drip Coffee owner and barista Sean McCrossin said he is leaving it up to the city at this point as well.
“Would I like to see it? I mean, obviously, I would like for everybody to get vaccinated, therefore, there wouldn’t be an issue any longer,” McCrossin said.
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