South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster Sunday said health experts are exaggerating the threat posed by the more infectious delta variant of COVID-19 and accused them of engaging in "frightening hyperbole."
"Yes, the rates are going up, but they are way below they were last July," the Republican governor said on Fox News' "Fox News Sunday." "The hospital capacity, those rates are not going up. We are urging people to get vaccinated but I really think we got to stay calm. We have put the fire out. It's smoldering in places and could come back up, but the house is not on fire again."
Health experts are "frightening people," but South Carolina won't have a mandatory mask mandate and it will not allow its schools to require face coverings, McMaster said.
"We have a law in South Carolina that we passed last year that says that the schools cannot require masks," said McMaster. "It's going to be up to the parents whether the children wear masks when they go to school. That's the parents' decision. We know the danger involved."
Vaccinations are free statewide, he added, and "we trust people to do the right thing. We are giving them the right information."
State data shows that 44.5% of South Carolina's residents are fully vaccinated and 51% have gotten at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.
The governor also said that state officials are "not confused" by the shifting messages from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as "we know what to do."
"We like to give the information to the people," said McMaster. "(We) make all the choices available to them and then let them make the decisions, and it's working...as result, our economy is going, people are working. They are prospering again while other states are digging out, we are taking off. The exaggeration, the almost scare tactics are not justified."
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