South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster announced the relaxation of executive orders Monday that had previously closed non-essential businesses and the state’s public beaches.
As those businesses reopened, the number of cases of COVID-19 across the state grew Tuesday to 4,608 with 135 deaths due to the novel coronavirus. The number of statewide cases grew by 169 from Monday’s total of 4,439 and there were 11 new deaths reported, bringing that total to 135.
In Laurens County, the total of COVID-19 cases grew to 21 Tuesday, an increase of one case over Monday when the county’s 20th case was reported by South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control officials. One death due to COVID-19 has occurred in the county.
McMaster has said he expects the state’s economy to be “humming” by the end of June, but critics believe he has too quickly bowed to pressure to reopen some non-essential businesses as the state’s numbers continue to go up and testing remains low.
“We’d like to get everyone back to business as soon as possible, not a minute before it is safe to do so,” McMaster said at a Monday press conference.
Small business advocates have said the retail closures have been unfair as big-box stores have remained open without restrictions on items they are allowed to sell.
While retail businesses have the option to reopen, restaurants remain closed for dine-in. Hairdressers, massage therapists and others who have direct contact with others also remain closed.
Local governments in Myrtle Beach, Charleston and Hilton Head Island have also said their beaches will remain closed despite McMaster’s reversal after two weeks of closure through his executive order.
McMaster also said he encouraging social distancing and large gatherings of more than 10 people are still prohibited by executive order, but he would like to see all state businesses open again in four weeks.
After that, an Accelerate S.C. task force will help determine necessary steps forward or back.
“The purpose of Accelerate S.C. is to determine the economic steps that can be taken within the confines of the health and safety limitations that are imposed on us by the science and the data,” McMaster said. “There is really no date, but we want to move as quickly as we can and as safely as we can. If that requires going slow, then that’s what we will do, but every step will be thoroughly vetted, thoroughly discussed and based on science, the date and the best information we can get.”
McMaster is also to meet with state Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman later this week to decide whether or not to reopen schools prior to the end of the academic year in June. State superintendents polled on a conference call this past week voted to keep schools closed.