COVID mask mandate is lifted in South Carolina state buildings

Libby-Jane Charleston

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Gov. Henry McMaster. (Picture Facebook)

Gov. Henry McMaster made the decision to lift mask mandates inside of state buildings. He is also announcing the return of remaining state employees back to the workplace full-time.

"Now that the majority of South Carolinians are eligible to receive the vaccine, and infections and hospitalizations have dropped significantly, state agency heads may safely bring back the last group of state employees working remotely,” McMaster said.

More than a million South Carolinians have received at least one shot of the vaccine so far. Officials say cases have declined dramatically since mid-January. Average daily cases have dropped from 4,953 on Jan. 11 to 1,356 on Mar. 3 — a 72% drop.

On Friday, McMaster lifted the limits on large gatherings as well as the "last call order" which had prohibited the sale of alcohol after 11 p.m. Thie new order states that restaurants must continue to maintain social distancing and asks employees and customers to wear masks while they are not eating or drinking.

Last week, Gov. McMaster told reporters he was keen to "get all of these restrictions off everything we can."

But McMaster also recognized that businesses and residents need to remain vigilant about following guidelines to prevent the spread of COVID-19, a point he emphasized again in a news release during the week.

"Everybody ought to just understand that we'll be carrying masks with us and washing hands and staying apart, keeping the windows open, getting in as much fresh air, ventilation in the buildings. All of those things, we are going to be doing that for a while now," McMaster said.

Limitations on nursing home visits remain the only major COVID-19 restriction left in the state.

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Gov. Henry McMaster (Picture: supplied)

“The virus is still among us and we all must continue to make responsible decisions to take care of ourselves and our loved ones, but those decisions are for South Carolinians to make,” McMaster said.

These new changes means mass gatherings of 250 people or more won't need approval from the state’s Department of Commerce. There will no longer be any penalties for organizers for violating safety rules. 

Brian Symmes, the governor’s spokesman, said McMaster is confident that organizers and businesses will follow his suggestions on attendance limits to avoid further spread of the virus.

South Carolina’s move comes two days after North Carolina eased attendance limits on events.

Dr. Linda Bell, the chief epidemiologist at the S.C. Department of Environmental Control, has encouraged the public to keep to the prevention measures.

“We want people to be able to patronize businesses to participate in social activities and what-not. And what we’ve said all along is that there are safe ways to do certain activities, as long as people practice those prevention measures," Dr Bell said.

Here is the full executive order:

Governor Henry McMaster today issued Executive Order 2021-12, which modifies existing emergency orders related to the COVID-19 pandemic and begins the process of facilitating the return of the remaining state employees back to the workplace on a full-time basis.

“Now that the majority of South Carolinians are eligible to receive the vaccine, and infections and hospitalizations have dropped significantly, state agency heads may safely bring back the last group of state employees working remotely,” said Gov. Henry McMaster.

The new Executive Order also rescinds previously mandatory face covering safety measures in state government offices, buildings, and facilities and authorizes the South Carolina Department of Administration to promulgate guidelines, in consultation with the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control, regarding the same (Section 2-B).

Additionally, the executive order recommends previously mandatory face-covering safety measures in restaurants (Section 3-A).

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I'm a journalist and author writing across a wide range of topics, including tech, travel, history, business/startups, relationships, beauty & fashion, British royal history, & local stories concerning Charleston, S.C (where I have a long family history on my father's side: hence my surname! ) Former HuffPost Assoc Ed, ABC TV, ATV Beijing correspondent and many more. Author of "Fatal Females." Mother of three boys: I will love them until the Statue of Liberty sits down.

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