Data released Friday by South Carolina public health officials shows that communities that have enacted and kept mask requirements continue to see slower rates of coronavirus spread than communities without such rules.
Nearly 42 percent of residents, about 2.1 million people, live in communities that have local mask requirements in place, according to the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control.
DHEC looked at five weeks, June 23 to July 27, and found that communities with mask mandates had larger drops in the rate of COVID-19 spread than communities that lacked a mask mandate. The data is broken down as follows:
- First week — 66.5 percent greater decrease
- Second week — 39.2 percent greater decrease
- Third week — 6.1 percent greater decrease,
- Fourth week — 3.5 percent greater decrease
- Fifth week — no greater percent decrease
"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."
New cases reported: 766, a 385 percent increase from the 158 tallied on March 31, the day Gov. Henry McMaster ordered nonessential businesses to close.
Total cases in S.C.: 133,310, plus 3,008 probable cases
New deaths reported: 21
Total deaths in S.C.: 3,010, plus 167 probable deaths
Hospitalized patients: 798
Percent of positive tests, 7-day average: 12.9 percent. Five percent of tests or fewer returning positive results is a good sign the virus' spread is slowing, researchers say.
Total tests in S.C.: 1,205,736
The top three South Carolina counties for new coronavirus cases are: Richland, 74, Greenville, 69, and Lexington, 55.
What about the tri-county?
Charleston County had 33 new cases, while Berkeley had 12 and Dorchester had eight.
Of the 21 new deaths, 14 were of elderly patients aged 65 and older, according to DHEC. Seven middle-aged patients, aged 35 to 64, also died.
Of 798 coronavirus patients who were hospitalized as of Friday, DHEC said 217 were in intensive care and 125 were on ventilators.
What do experts say?
Authorities continue to urge the public to take precautions like wearing a mask in public, washing hands frequently and social distancing. They also urge anyone who is showing symptoms of COVID-19 or who may have been exposed to the virus to be tested.