Parts of SC with mask mandates saw a 46% decline in coronavirus cases compared to areas without rules

FILE - People wearing protective face masks walk along King St. on July 18, 2020 in Charleston, South Carolina. (Photo by Sean Rayford/Getty Images)

A report from the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) released on Aug. 12 said that parts of the state in which local mask mandates were in effect helped significantly slow the spread of COVID-19, compared to areas without those same ordinances.

According to a regularly updated map available on the South Carolina Emergency Management Division’s website, approximately 40% of residents, or 2 million South Carolinians, live in areas which implement local mask requirements to stop the spread of COVID-19.

According to the state’s health department, when health officials compared their analysis of areas that did not enact mask mandates compared to areas that did, the areas that enforced the use of a facial coverings to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus saw a 46.3% decrease in the total number of COVID-19 cases over the four weeks after the mandates were enacted. 

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“This new data shows us what we already knew, wearing face masks works,” said Dr. Linda Bell, S.C. state epidemiologist. “We’re strongly supportive of these local leaders’ initiatives that are centered on protecting the health and wellbeing of their communities.”

The areas which implemented no face mask requirement actually experienced an overall increase in total cases of 30.4%. 

“The residents in jurisdictions that acted first are seeing the benefits earlier,” Bell said. “This shows the sooner prevention measures are adopted, the sooner we all benefit.”

Like many other health experts, including the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Robert Redfield as well as Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert, South Carolina health officials recommend crucial precautionary measures to help stop the spread of COVID-19:

  • Practice social distancing
  • Wear a mask in public
  • Avoid group gatherings
  • Regularly wash your hands
  • Stay home if sick

Redfield stressed the need for mitigation measures that science has proven actually work to stop the spread of the potentially deadly illness, saying that if Americans fail to implement critical preventative actions, the U.S. could face “the worst fall” season ever due to the potentially deadly combination of the novel coronavirus and the seasonal flu.

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During an Aug. 14 interview with WebMD’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. John Whyte, Redfield discussed the importance of COVID-19 preventative measures, including wearing a mask, social distancing, washing one's hands and avoiding large crowds.

“You do those four things, it will bring this outbreak down,” Redfield said. “But if we don't do that, as I said last April, this could be the worst fall from a public health perspective we've ever had.

Redfield said his biggest concern is a combined wave of two viruses, the novel coronavirus and the flu, hitting Americans during the worst public health crisis in decades.
“We’re going to have flu in the fall, and either one of those by themselves can stress certain hospital systems,” Redfield said. “I've seen hospital intensive care units stretch by a severe flu season, and clearly, we've all seen it recently with COVID.”