| Greenville News
In an exclusive interview on Thursday with Greenville News, state epidemiologist Dr. Linda Bell said that a statewide mask order would do more to delay the COVID-19 outbreak in South Carolina than measures approved by governments locations.
“We could get to where we needed to be much more quickly, obviously, if we were able to do something across the state at once,” said Bell after appearing at a press conference at Michelin North America headquarters in Greenville.
During the press conference, Bell said that state public health officials “strongly support” the measures that authorities in cities like Greenville, Clemson and, more recently, Anderson have taken, requiring residents to wear masks in various public settings.
But in his interview with The News, Bell said that local mask laws have only a “drip effect” on the state’s efforts to control the coronavirus pandemic. She said that a statewide mask order would have a “more immediate effect and a more immediate benefit”.
As of Thursday, 29 states and the District of Columbia have implemented state orders requiring facial coverage in public. But Governor Henry McMaster refrained from issuing such an order in South Carolina.
More: Prisma Health sees recent decline in hospitalizations in the interior of the state of COVID-19
Bell, who appeared at several COVID-19 media briefings with McMaster, told The News that she shared her views on the matter with the Republican governor.
“The comment I just made to you, the governor knows me,” she said.
McMaster spokesman Brian Symmes issued an e-mailed statement after being contacted by The News.
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“The governor simply believes that there is no way to develop an applicable and unique approach to a statewide masked law, but he continues to support local governments in their efforts to pass laws that are uniquely tailored to their communities’ needs” said Symmes.
In addition to Bell, Greenville Mayor Knox White, Mayor Anderson Terence Roberts and State Representative Neal Collins, an Easley Republican, publicly called for a statewide masking mandate to slow the spread of COVID-19.
More: South Carolina’s mask decrees have different requirements and penalties across the state
New cases of COVID-19 and hospitalizations for people with respiratory disease have increased rapidly over weeks in South Carolina and several other states. As of Thursday, there were more than 76,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the state since the pandemic hit South Carolina in March. The state Department of Health and Environmental Control projects that South Carolina will exceed 100,000 cases by August 1.
The state had 1,294 confirmed deaths from COVID-19. According to a daily DHEC record, 525 of those deaths occurred in July.
McMaster failed to follow the advice of public health officials before
McMaster’s refusal to issue a mask order across the state is not the first time he has not followed the advice of public health officials during the pandemic.
In April, he decided that beaches and some retail stores in South Carolina could reopen, despite warnings from DHEC officials that the changes posed serious risks related to the coronavirus pandemic.
Physician Prisma: COVID-19 hospitalizations are ‘ridiculously out of control’ in Upstate SC
These risks included the likelihood that communities on the state’s seaside could see an influx of visitors who would ignore social detachment guidelines, as well as a “perception that loosened restrictions can lead to a false sense of security,” according to with an April 19 memo obtained by The News through a Freedom of Information Act request.
Speaking at a press conference on April 20, McMaster said he was ending the mandatory closure of beaches and shops “in the light of the common sense demonstrated by the great people of South Carolina”.
Since then, cases of COVID-19 in coastal counties and urban areas in the state have increased dramatically as people gathered there, often without wearing masks or adhering to social distance practices designed to slow the spread of the disease and save lives. .
Kirk Brown covers government and politics. Follow him on Twitter @KirkBrown_AIM