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Gov. McMaster Closes Public Access To All SC Beaches, Waterways As COVID-19 Cases Surge

McMaster said the order was issued “as a result of behavior observed this past weekend.”

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Gov. Henry McMaster ordered to close public access to all beaches and waterways in South Carolina on Monday, as coronavirus cases surged across the Palmetto State.

“As a result of behavior observed this past weekend by the Department of Natural Resources and SLED, it has become necessary to close public access to our state’s beaches, and close boat ramps and landings on our state’s lakes, rivers and waterways,” McMaster tweeted on Monday.

The order includes public access to “any and all public piers, docks, wharfs, boat ramps, and boat landings providing public access to the public waters of this state.” Parking lots and public facilities at such locations will also close.

McMaster’s order also includes boating restrictions. It says “beaching or rafting of boats, whether on a sandbar, lakeshore, riverbank, or island,” will be prohibited and SCDNR officers are encouraged to enforce the order.

“Vessels must remain underway at all times unless exigent circumstances exist” the order said. “Anchoring to fish is allowed; however, rafting is prohibited under all circumstances.

This does not apply to those who have a valid South Carolina commercial fishing license.

The order will remain in effect for the duration of the state of emergency.

“This is unfortunate for those who chose to responsibly follow the instructions of our public health officials, but a necessary action to prevent the spread of the COVID 19 virus,” McMaster tweeted Monday evening.

As we reported earlier, photos from across the state showed massive gatherings of people, especially on the beaches in South Carolina over the weekend.

Many people on Twitter asked McMaster to issue a shelter-in-place lockdown instead of another measure that might not help the state as a whole combat the virus. More than 13,000 people have signed a change.org petition in favor of a shelter-in-place order in South Carolina.

The law does not prohibit private beach access. So tourists who rent a house on the beach, for instance, can still technically do that (depending on which SC city it is in).

In Hilton Head, South Carolina, for example, leaders voted to shut public beach access down more than a week ago and large crowds were reported in private communities like Sea Pines this past weekend. Sources tell us that most of the license plates in the parking lot were from out-of-town tourists.

McMaster has done very little to restrict South Carolina tourists from entering the state during the coronavirus outbreak.

On Friday, South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster issued an executive order for visitors from identified coronavirus hot spots. Visitors coming to South Carolina from New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and New Orleans must quarantine for 14 days, McMaster said Friday in a press conference.

South Carolina now has 925 total coronavirus cases and 18 people have died in the state.

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