Gov. McMaster says it’s “impossible” to enforce mask-wearing mandate statewide

The Governor said it would violate First Amendment rights if he issued a statewide mandate

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WOLO) —As cases of COVID-19 continue to rise in South Carolina, Gov. Henry McMaster (R-SC) says he is not going to force anyone to wear a mask.

He calls a statewide plan to require mask-wearing unenforceable and ineffective.

This comes after there were more than 1,000 new cases of COVID-19 in South Carolina for the sixth time in seven days.

The state’s Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) said there were 1,273 new cases of the virus reported Friday as well as one new death. South Carolina now has had more than 30,000 cases of the virus since the pandemic began.

Even as cases continue to rise and hospital beds fill up one by one, health experts say more people under the age of 30 are testing positive.

“We are aware of clusters of cases among teenagers and young adults who have spent time together in social settings, including parties and trips to our beautiful beaches,” said DHEC Public Health Director Dr. Joan Duwve. “They didn’t wear masks, and they didn’t social distance, and many of them contracted the virus.”

The Governor says he doesn’t plan to close any beaches ahead of the Fourth of July, and that schools should reopen for face-to-face instruction this fall.

Even with cities like Columbia, Greenville, and Charleston requiring people to wear masks, he says forcing people across the state to wear a mask would violate their First Amendment rights.

“It is ineffective, it is impractical to have a mandate that everyone wear a mask because it is not enforceable,” Gov. McMaster said. “For me to tell you that we’re going to require people to wear a mask and then not be able to enforce it gives a false sense of security that everyone is following the rules.”

Still, the Governor says the public health risks of avoiding social distancing and mask-wearing are too dire, especially as more people get sick.

“This is a dangerous, deadly disease. You’ve got to follow the rules and wear your mask,” Gov. McMaster said.

Gov. Roy Cooper (D-NC) recently signed a bill that requires all North Carolinians to wear a mask which took effect Friday evening.

As of Friday, DHEC reported 30,263 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in South Carolina, with at least 694 deaths caused by the virus.

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