COVID vaccine live updates: Here’s what to know in South Carolina on May 15

·3 min read

We’re tracking the most up-to-date information about the coronavirus and COVID-19 vaccines in South Carolina. Check back for updates.

Cases exceed 487,000

At least 487,178 people have tested positive for the coronavirus in South Carolina and 8,471 have died since March 2020, according to state health officials.

The S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control reported 337 new COVID-19 cases on Friday, up from 229 reported the day before.

Four coronavirus-related deaths were also reported.

At least 345 people were reported hospitalized with COVID-19 on Friday, and 94 COVID-19 patients were in intensive care units.

As of Friday, 3.2% of COVID-19 tests were reported positive. Health officials say 5% or lower indicates a low risk of community spread.

More than 1.4 million South Carolina residents, or 35%, have completed vaccination against COVID-19, and more than 1.7 million, or 44%, have received at least one dose.

Kids getting COVID is ‘inevitable,’ school board member says

In an email to a concerned parent, Lexington-Richland 5 school board secretary Nikki Gardner said it is “inevitable” that children will catch COVID-19 and that wearing masks is potentially harmful.

The exchange came after the board voted to stop requiring students to wear masks in school. Sarah Snodgrass, a mother of a student, sent an email expressing concern over how the policy change might affect her pre-school age son.

Gardner wrote back, saying that students are not at a greater risk of contracting the coronavirus without wearing masks, and that if they do it will be good for their immune systems.

“I am in disbelief that you would admit to this,” Snodgrass responded. “No one should advocate for anyone to get a deadly disease.”

Gardner said “we don’t want them to get it” but that it is “likely inevitable” that they will.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and other health agencies, have said for months that wearing masks is an effective way to prevent spreading COVID-19 in close quarters through droplets.

When contacted by The State, Gardner said she doesn’t trust the CDC.

“The CDC is run by corporations,” she said. “They have a spin ... you can find other science out there that they aren’t willing to put out that (masks) are bad for us.”

But catching COVID-19 isn’t inevitable, Columbia pediatrician Deborah Greenhouse says, and people should continue taking precautions.

“Please follow the science, and not the politics,” she tells her patients. “This should not be political.”

Columbia stops enforcing mask ordinance

The city of Columbia has changed its masks ordinance to an “advisory” guideline and will no longer enforce their use.

The change comes as federal officials and President Joe Biden advise that fully vaccinated Americans don’t need to wear masks outside or in most indoor settings. An executive order issued by Gov. Henry McMaster earlier this week prohibited local governments from implementing mask rules on the basis of prior states of emergency or previous orders by McMaster.

But Columbia was already moving toward lifting its mask mandate, The State reported.

Residents are encouraged to continue wearing masks but won’t be required to do so except when visiting a government building.

S.C. officials planning incentives to get people vaccinated

South Carolina health officials are mulling incentives for getting the coronavirus vaccine as demand for the shot wanes across the state and country, The Island Packet reported.

“We’re open to almost anything that will encourage folks to get the vaccine and that is legal,” S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control Director Edward Simmer said Thursday.

State officials are starting small by teaming up with the S.C. Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism to offer a shot in the arm in exchange for free admission to state parks. The park vaccination effort is just a first step, and plans to offer discounts and monetary rewards could be down the line.