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SC Officials: Masks Are Crucial As Vaccine Rollout Continues

Charles Deluvio
South Carolina health officials are asking residents to wear masks as COVID-19 continues to spread.

COLUMBIA, S.C. — South Carolina could prevent 450 deaths over the next three months if everyone wears masks, a state health official said Saturday.

During a Saturday news conference, Department of Health and Environmental Control interim public health director Dr. Brannon Traxler emphasized the importance of wearing masks to slow down the virus, even as vaccines for COVID-19 have begun to make their way into the state.

“I want everyone to remember that, while we are vaccinating, which everyone nationwide agrees is going to take some months to complete the entire population, I really encourage people to keep doing the things that we know work, that are very simple, like wearing masks,” Traxler said.

She said an Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation model has shown that statewide mask-wearing could reduce the number of deaths by 450 people between now and April 1.

More than 4,200 cases of COVID-19 were reported Saturday, bringing the statewide total to 287,776.

The Department of Health and Environmental Control also announced 84 more deaths, boosting the state's total to at least 4,968. Nearly 2,000 people are still hospitalized with the virus.

South Carolina lawmakers on Thursday questioned the pace of the state’s coronavirus vaccine rollout, even as health officials said they’re vaccinating people faster than the rest of the country.

As of Saturday, Traxler said 41,508 doses of the vaccine had been administered. Those doses are going to front-line health care workers and people living and working in long-term care facilities in the state’s initial phase.

“Our goal is to save lives and to ensure that everyone who wishes to be administered a vaccine will be vaccinated,” Traxler said.

Still, she noted that the state, so far, had received limited doses of the vaccine.

“Please be patient and wait your turn. We are ensuring that the most vulnerable are vaccinated first and as the supply increases, the people getting it will expand," she said. “Step up and step back until your turn in the plan.”

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