COLUMBIA - South Carolina's governor said while getting the COVID-19 vaccine was the right decision for him, other people reluctant to get the shot need to talk to friends, pastors and doctors and decide if it is best for them.
Gov. Henry McMaster's comments Thursday came as statistics show both good news and bad news with the pandemic.
The average number of new COVID-19 cases has doubled in the past two weeks to about 410 cases a day, and the rate shows no sign of slowing down.
Officials reported 929 new COVID-19 cases Thursday in South Carolina, similar to the number of daily cases last seen in March just as the vaccines were being rolled out, according to Department of Health and Environmental Control data.
But health officials also announced Thursday that at least half of people in the state eligible for the vaccine have received at least one dose. That rate is better than several Southern states but still in the bottom 20% of the U.S.
About 44% of South Carolinians are fully vaccinated, DHEC said.
McMaster has not discouraged anyone from getting the vaccine, although he did come out firmly against having teams go door to door offering doses. The 74-year-old governor is vaccinated, along with his wife.
"It's a personal decision. We made our decision. I think it was the right decision," McMaster said Thursday after a meeting of a committee reviewing how to spend federal COVID-19 relief money.
The governor said 99% of the people now in hospitals with COVID-19 are not vaccinated, showing the shots are effective. He said information is out there but also encouraged people reluctant to get the shots to talk to friends or pastors, which may not change minds if they share the same reluctance.
"They need to talk to the people they trust, whether it's the preacher or their doctor or neighbors or friends, and make a decision," McMaster said.
Schools and colleges start back in less than a month, and health officials are concerned that may be another place for COVID-19 to spread again. The lowest vaccination rates in the state are among people ages 12 to 24, health officials said.
Already this summer, South Carolina has reported at least 150 cases with children attending summer camps or their employees, DHEC Director Dr. Edward Simmer said in a statement.
"These numbers are a snapshot of what could happen in our schools this year if more parents, students, teachers and other school officials don't get vaccinated," Simmer said. "At this time last year, we did not have a solution to defeat COVID-19. Now we do."
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