Photo courtesy MUSC Health

Dr. Edward Simmer, director of the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC), told lawmakers that the state could be ready to move into Phase 1b of vaccinations as soon as mid- to late-March on Tuesday.

The announcement came as the state continues to debate whether teachers should be granted Phase 1a eligibility. Simmer told the House Ways and Means Healthcare Subcommittee that he is still prioritizing Phase 1a individuals (mainly, those who are 65 and older). After appointments for those individuals are no longer full, he recommends moving into the next phase, which would include teachers, grocery store employees and other essential workers.

According to Simmer, the state could be ready for Phase 1b in just two to three weeks though DHEC officials have not yet finalized rollout plans for this next phrase.

State health officials announced another 921 cases of COVID-19 on Thursday. Out of 26,810 tests reported today, 8.4% were positive for the coronavirus.