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EDITORIAL: Masks to be part of life for some time
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EDITORIAL: Masks to be part of life for some time

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Some communities in South Carolina are experiencing protests by individuals opposed to mandates to wear masks amid the coronavirus pandemic. The mandates come in the form of local ordinances such as those in Orangeburg County, the City of Orangeburg and Bamberg County. There is no statewide order to wear masks in public.

Whether there should be a statewide mandate is really no longer the subject of much debate. Gov. Henry McMaster has made clear he is leaving such orders to localities.

Despite outcries against mask ordinances, the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control is reporting they have impact, with communities with mask requirement ordinances in place continuing to see a slower rate of disease spread compared to communities without mask requirements.

On Aug. 12, DHEC released the initial findings of its data analysis of the counties and municipalities that have implemented mask requirements for individuals when in public as a protection measure against COVID-19. DHEC issued a second mask analysis update on Aug. 25.

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“This updated data analysis continues to show that jurisdictions with a mask ordinance remain effective in mitigating the spread of COVID-19 when compared to those jurisdictions without an ordinance in place,” said Dr. Michael Kacka, DHEC physician and chief medical officer. “The data reinforces what we’ve already known: the proper wearing of masks helps stop the spread of this deadly virus.”

The updated data indicate:

  • Nearly 42% of residents, or approximately 2,100,000 South Carolinians, reside in jurisdictions that have local mask requirements in place.
  • For the most recent analysis, jurisdictions with a mask ordinance were categorized into week of initiation, meaning the week the ordinance took effect, with five weeks of mask ordinance initiations considered:

First week: June 23-29

Second week: June 30-July 6

Third week: July 7-13

Fourth week: July 14-20

Fifth week: July 21-27

  • When comparing the jurisdictions that have mask requirements in place to those jurisdictions that don't, the jurisdictions with mask requirements have experienced a greater percent decrease in cases one month after their ordinance initiation:
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First week: 66.5% greater decrease

Second week: 39.2% greater decrease

Third week: 6.1% greater decrease,

Fourth week 3.5% greater decrease

Fifth week: no greater percent decrease

Mask ordinances work because most people will obey the law. In doing so, they are helping keep themselves and others safe. Their actions can mean fewer people contracting COVID-19 and, hopefully, ending this plague sooner rather than later.

Mandate or not, masks are going to be a part of life for the foreseeable future. Wear them -- and call masks just one of the components of the new reality brought on by COVID-19.

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