Due to the rise in COVID-19 cases and the increasing threat of the Delta variant, the CDC is recommending public indoor masking for everyone, regardless of vaccination status. This includes masking for teachers, students, parents and visitors in K-12 schools. The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) is adopting the federal agency’s updated guidance and is recommending all South Carolinians, including those who are fully vaccinated, wear their masks when indoors and in public settings.
According to the CDC, there has been a rise in breakthrough cases – ones where fully vaccinated individuals test positive for COVID-19 – that is likely being fueled due to the rise of the Delta variant. That is why updated guidelines are necessary, according to the agency. The updated CDC recommendations include:
In areas with substantial and high transmission, CDC recommends that everyone (including fully vaccinated individuals) wear a mask in public indoor settings to help prevent spread of Delta and protect others.
CDC recommends that community leaders encourage vaccination and masking to prevent further outbreaks in areas of substantial and high transmission.
CDC recommends universal indoor masking for all teachers, staff, students, and visitors to K-12 schools, regardless of vaccination status. Children should return to full-time in-person learning in the fall with layered prevention strategies in place. In accordance with the previous CDC order, students are required to wear masks on school buses.
DHEC recommends all South Carolinians follow the same protocols. To be clear, this is not a mandate. State law prohibits the implementation of mask mandates in schools. However, DHEC strongly encourages individuals to protect themselves and others by wearing masks.
“Today’s change in guidance from the CDC reflects the very concerning trends we are seeing nationally and here in South Carolina regarding increasing case rates and a stagnant vaccination rate,” said Dr. Brannon Traxler, DHEC Public Health Director. “As a virus spreads, it mutates into more contagious forms, which explains the rise of the Delta variant. We were hoping to reach herd immunity to stifle the spread of COVID-19 to prevent this scenario, but public health urgency now makes it necessary to return to recommending universal masking in public indoor settings.”
Despite these changes in guidance, one thing remains clear: vaccinations are still the number one way to end this pandemic. Recent statewide data shows that, in the month of June, more than 90 percent of COVID-19 cases and deaths, and 86 percent of hospitalizations, were among individuals who were not fully vaccinated.
“This data shows that even with the threat of variants, vaccinations are working,” Traxler added. “If we increase our masking and our vaccinations, we can protect ourselves and fellow South Carolinians, and finally defeat COVID-19.”
DHEC is finalizing its K-12 guidance for the 2021-2022 academic year and will provide that guidance this week.
Vaccinations are available for ages 12 and up at many locations across the state. Visit DHEC’s information page for more information on the vaccines, and the locator page to schedule a vaccine appointment.