McMaster: State won’t shut down amid omicron surge

State - Regional

COLUMBIA, SC (WSPA) — Health officials in South Carolina and the rest of the country are reporting a record number of new daily COVID-19 cases as 2022 begins, but Gov. Henry McMaster said now is not the time to panic.

“We are now in a very different situation than we faced a year ago or longer,” he said Wednesday morning.

The Republican governor said there are plenty of vaccine doses and testing sites available in South Carolina. He also said he has no plans to shut down the state or issue a state of emergency.

“We are not going to close schools,” he said. “We haven’t and we will not close businesses. We will not impose mandates for face masks, vaccines or anything else.”

State health officials and the governor are urging South Carolinians to take steps to protect themselves and their families.

Dr. Linda Bell, the state’s epidemiologist with the Department of Health and Environmental Control, said the omicron variant appears to cause milder infection but vaccination, mask-wearing and physical distancing are still needed to slow the spread of the virus.

“It is our public health duty to raise alerts for people to do more to help reduce disease spread,” Bell said. “And I hope no one will say raising concern about an average of 81 lives lost in the last few weeks is an overreaction.”

Bell and the governor encouraged people to get tested for COVID-19 if they think they have it or were exposed. They also urged people to avoid going to the emergency room to get tested. They said there are more than 300 designated testing sites across the state.

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