COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCBD) – Governor Henry McMaster believes South Carolina will be able to manage the recent surge in COVID-19 cases brought on by the Omicron variant. He said the state has no intentions of shutting down businesses or schools and will not implement a state of emergency or mandates like requiring face masks.

“We are not in a situation now where anyone needs to panic,” he said. “Things are not like they were a year or two ago.”

The governor, however, did encourage people to get vaccinated against the virus and praised the availability across the state.

“We actually have more places where our people can get vaccinated if they want to than we had a year ago. We have over a thousand vaccination sites that are out there right now- we have plenty of vaccines. A year or so ago we were scrambling to find a vaccine. Well, now we have an ample supply.” He also boasted the state’s more than 320 testing sites.

But many of those sites have seen long lines in recent weeks. Gov. Master attributed that to more people looking to get tested amid the surge in Omicron variant cases. “Not as many going to get tested now as went to get tested a year ago, but there are long lines waiting to get tested,” he said.

He also urged people not to go to local emergency rooms to get tested unless they feel seriously ill. Gov. McMaster said there are designated testing locations and getting tested at the hospital will overwhelm staff who are needed for more serious issues.

“We are now entering the third year of this virus and it’s going to be changing, apparently, every year, but now we know how to deal with it. We know how to manage it and we have the tools to do that.”

Gov. henry mcmaster

“The main thing I want to say is we don’t need to panic, we didn’t panic before, don’t panic now- be calm. Things are not like they were a year ago, and, again, we have plenty of vaccine. We’re not going to shut down. We urge everyone to be calm, be careful, and take care of yourself and your family.”

Additionally, Gov. McMaster said since the start of the pandemic, South Carolina schools have received $3 billion in federal funding. He said the State Executive Budget Office reports only 11% of those funds have been spent as of August of last year.

The funding is intended to help school districts keep schools open and can be used for myriad things like testing, purchasing cleaning supplies and sanitization products, or replacing and/or upgrading indoor HVAC systems for better ventilation and purification.

It’s something he said all parents are in favor of rather than imposing face mask mandates for students.

The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control on Wednesday reported a record number of COVID-19 cases over a four-day period.

“We know the Omicron variant is spreading all throughout our state. But we also know a full vaccination series, which DHEC now considers an initial vaccination and ideally a booster shot for ages 16 and up, will stave off severe cases of COVID and all its variants,” said Dr. Brannon Traxler, DHEC Public Health Director. “We urge our residents to not waste time. Protect yourselves and your families against this deadly virus.”

Gov. McMaster said he has not yet received his booster shot but plans to “pretty soon,” he said. “I’ll take Peggy with me,” McMaster continued.