MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WBTW) – At a time when South Carolina has seen its worst week for COVID-19 cases since the pandemic began, Gov. Henry McMaster declined to make any changes and insisted all schools should be open five days a week.
The White House has placed South Carolina in the red zone for the virus and issued stiff recommendations, such as people 65 or older should not enter public places. And neighboring North Carolina just issued new restrictions, including a curfew and a modified stay-at-home order.
Yet McMaster told the people of South Carolina in a press conference on Wednesday to just redouble their efforts of social distancing and wearing masks.
“Now is the time to redouble our efforts,” McMaster said. “When the cold weather comes, people go inside, and that’s the best opportunity for the virus to spread.”
McMaster said COVID-19 guidelines have been repeated so often, they should be memorized by everyone by now and, “We need to be determined to follow those best practices.”
Dr. Linda Bell, the state’s epidemiologist, warned lives will be lost, but said South Carolinians have the ability to stop more than 1,000 deaths by April if they could be 95 percent compliant with masks.
The governor expressed at length how disappointed he is in a recent ruling against his proposal to use CARE funds for private schools and how disappointed he is that not all public schools are open five days a week for person-to-person learning.
Schools provide the only opportunity for working parents to go to work, McMaster said. “Parents should not have to choose between their children or their jobs. And that is what school districts that have not opened five days a week are forcing parents to do.”
The governor said there is little he can do to open the schools that he hasn’t already done. “I do not have the authority or I would have done it a long time ago.” He warned the consequences will be enormous.
South Carolina teachers have pushed for virtual school after the record-setting number of COVID-19 cases in the past week. SC for Ed is imploring districts to start using virtual learning by using social media and other tactics in a campaign called “virtual until safe.”
McMaster also outlined the CDC’s guidelines for vaccine distribution, noting most South Carolinians will not be vaccinated for months. Here is the order:
First phase: Workers in healthcare settings. Second group of first phase, workers who provide services that have a high risk of exposure with the public. Those who live or work in congregate settings. People who are 75 or older. And people with two certain chronic health risk conditions defined in a list.
Second phase: Pharmacists, techs, grocery store and food delivery, postal, teachers, child care, persons with one certain chronic health risk conditions defined in a list.
Third phase: The entire population.