South Carolina’s leaders continue to wrestle with the question of whether to reopen the state’s economy completely as the numbers of positive cases of COVID-19 continue to climb.
Laurens County had 38 confirmed cases Tuesday afternoon, according to numbers provided by the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control. The county reported 13 new cases Sunday and Monday, but DHEC officials said spikes in Greenville County were attributed to a private Greenville laboratory that reported a month’s worth of tests to DHEC over the weekend. Laurens County’s number could have also been affected by that delay.
Statewide, there are 5,735 confirmed cases of COVID-19 with 192 deaths. The death total increased by 15 and the total number of confirmed cases was up by from 5,613 from Monday.
South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster extended the statewide State of Emergency for another 15 days Monday afternoon, even as the state reopens for business slowly.
McMaster is under pressure from the business community to reopen all businesses, but has yet to do so.
“We went into this in a smart way with targeted hot spots, so we do not have the burden that some other states have in business closure, but we’re still facing a very serious disease and contagion,” McMaster said Sunday while welcoming a shipment of facemasks for the state’s medical workers from China at Greenville-Spartanburg International Airport. “If we are smart we can come out of this quickly, but we must do so safely.”
Rep. Stewart Jones (R-Laurens) was among four state representatives to take the cause of hairdressers and salon workers in Columbia Monday, saying that it is time for all non-essential businesses to reopen across the state.
“I’ve been in tears over these calls,” Jones said as reported in The State newspaper. “I mean, you get calls from people who have never asked the government for any assistance in their entire life. They don’t want to ask the government for assistance. They want their freedom. They want to be able to run their business and run their lives.”
Other elected officials, including House Minority Leader Todd Rutherford (D-Richland) has called for the reopening of restaurants with outdoor seating along with social distancing provisions.
BMW announced Tuesday that it plans to resume production for its 11,000 workers in Greer on Monday (May 4), which could spur a return to work for employees at ZF Transmissions and other suppliers across the Upstate.
Even so, McMaster said Sunday that the state is not in the clear as of yet.
Primary Elections scheduled for June are still on as scheduled, but other elections set for May 12, including the Ware Shoals School Board general elections have been postponed.
Other elections, which were scheduled for May 12, include the Ware Shoals School Board general election, the town of Windsor general election, the town of Bonneau general election, the Hanahan City Council special election, the Chester Ward 2 special election, the Lamar Town Council special election, the Ninety-Six School Board general election and the Spartanburg Metropolitan Sub District B Water and Sewer District general election.
The June statewide primary, which includes contests for U.S. Senate and House seats and state legislative races, is expected to continue as scheduled, the State Election Commission announced this week. McMaster has said the state has enough mechanisms, like absentee voting, to keep people safe while allowing voting.