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SC face mask laws are working in the fight against COVID-19

The verdict is in.

The recent steps by communities across South Carolina to require residents to wear face masks are leading to fewer new cases of COVID-19 in those areas.

According to data released by the state Department of Health and Environmental Control, the 10 counties and 60 communities with face mask requirements have seen a nearly 47% decrease in new COVID-19 cases during the first four weeks after their laws took effect.

So it turns out that what the state Department of Health and Environmental Control, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the World Health Organization and countless other medical agencies have been saying for months about COVID-19 really is true: wearing a face mask does make a difference in slowing the killer virus’ spread.

Indeed it’s doing just that in South Carolina.

Surprise, surprise.

The two obvious questions this revelation raises are, well, obvious:

▪ There are too many counties and communities in South Carolina that still don’t have face mask laws.

What are they waiting for?

▪ How much more progress would we have made by now if Gov. Henry McMaster had quickly implemented a statewide face mask policy during the spring — instead of spending much of the spring and summer steadfastly refusing to do so?

But those questions will certainly be dismissed by the stubborn mask deniers as “speculative” and “hypothetical.”

So let’s examine the three undeniable, irrefutable lessons that our state should take from the recent Department of Health and Environmental Control report.

The impact of bravery

Lesson No. 1: Those who displayed the courage to push through face mask requirements were right to show such bravery.

It was brave of the counties and municipalities across South Carolina that approved face mask laws — including major cities like Columbia, Charleston, Florence, Greenville, Spartanburg, Hilton Head and Myrtle Beach — to defy the bellicose “You’re trying to suppress my treasured freedoms by making me wear a mask” factions in their communities.

Their bravery has been vindicated by the lower numbers of new COVID-19 cases.

It was brave of South Carolina’s small and large retailers — businesses that were seeing firsthand how McMaster’s lack of action was empowering too many South Carolinians to strut through their stores without masks and put others in jeopardy — to risk alienating the hard-headed holdouts by imposing their own “No mask, no entry” requirements.

Their bravery has been vindicated by the lower numbers of new COVID-19 cases.

It was brave of State Epidemiologist Linda Bell to tirelessly call on South Carolinians to show a sense of responsibility by wearing masks — and to keep forcefully doing so even as her message was repeatedly undermined in frustrating fashion by McMaster.

Bell’s bravery has been vindicated by the lower numbers of new COVID-19 cases.

What a contrast between the bravery displayed by these parties and the lack of political courage shown by McMaster on face masks. Indeed if so much wasn’t at stake, you’d find it amusing that McMaster is now suddenly scrambling to get in front of a parade that has been marching for months without him.

Pragmatism prevails

Lesson No. 2: The overwhelming majority of people in South Carolina are common sense-oriented — and in the end they will always show the common sense to choose productive pragmatism over rigid ideology.

The reality is that as more and more retailers in South Carolina communities began requiring customers to wear face masks in order to shop in their establishments, more and more South Carolinians in the “I ain’t wearing no mask no way, no how” were forced to ask themselves this question:

“What means more to me right now — sticking to my inflexible position on masks or being able to shop in my favorite store?”

Fortunately they eventually reached the conclusion that the proper answer was also the practical one. They swallowed their pride. They put on their face masks. And they got on with their shopping.

Stay awake — or wake up

So what’s Lesson No. 3 to take from the link between local face mask laws and reduced new cases of COVID-19?

Actually, it’s a pretty simple one.

All of the people across our state who are wearing face masks need to stay vigilant about doing so.

And all of the South Carolinians who still aren’t wearing face masks need to wake up and start doing so.

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