South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster won’t enact a state-level face mask mandate, saying it would not be enforceable, although he urged voluntary mask-wearing to protect America’s most vulnerable from COVID-19.
McMaster urged South Carolinians at a briefing June 26 to wear face masks and practice social distancing amid a spike in new cases among younger people.
“This is a dangerous, deadly disease,” McMaster said. “For goodness sake, wear your mask, keep that distance.”
At the same time, the Republican governor insisted that enforcing a statewide rule on mask-wearing isn’t feasible.
“[It’s] virtually impossible to fashion a statewide rule on masks,” McMaster said. “These mandates are, in the end, are unenforceable. … It’s not the right policy for government. It’s not what the government needs to do.”
He says he had no objection to cities adopting their own rules.
“The cities do have some authority. It must be strictly limited and according to the law. But they do have authority,” he said. “Every city is different, and the businesses in those cities are different, the circumstance, the clientele, the people, and if they want to enforce a reasonable, legal limitation, then there is no opposition to that.”
McMaster’s remarks came as the state’s health agency reported 1,273 new COVID-19 cases. He said infection rates among the sub-40-year-olds, in particular, is skyrocketing.
“We know that young people can have this disease and not know it,” he said. “And they feel completely healthy yet they are completely infected.”
Younger people can then easily pass it to older people, McMaster said, adding that “anybody from 40 on down especially—particularly those 35 and 30—the rates of infection among those young people who are now getting tested is going up, up, up.”
He insisted that reopening the state is necessary to ensure livelihoods, but that some restrictions would have to remain in place.
“Reopening our state is highly important, we’ve got to do it. People cannot live without work, without an income,” he said, adding that he would issue a new declaration of a state of emergency that would maintain restrictions on certain categories of activities.
“We have no plans to lift restrictions on these highly active groups and activities until we see that infection rate go down,” he said, singling out night clubs, concert venues, auditoriums, performing arts centers, and spectator sports.
“And that’s minor league baseball, racing—all of those things that involve crowds,” he said.
“We’re hearing stories of groups coming back from the beach, where just about everybody that was in the group is infected—the young people—and then they can pass that, as we know, of course by coughing and sneezing, but also just breathing in close contact with other people, and particularly the older people might die from the thing,” he said.
“We’re telling you in the strongest, most urgent terms to follow these rules and wear those masks,” McMaster said.