South Carolina governor Henry McMaster announced his intention to relax previous emergency orders shutting down restaurants in the Palmetto State during the coronavirus pandemic – although restrictions will remain in place that limit their operations.
According to the governor, restaurants will be allowed to resume indoor dining services on Monday, May 11, 2020 – although the occupancy at these establishments will be limited to fifty percent of currently posted limits. Also, tables must be spaced at least eight feet apart from each other – and restaurants must undertake exhaustive sanitation protocols as they welcome patrons back indoors.
“This doesn’t mean they have to open,” McMaster said during a Friday afternoon press conference. “It just means that order has been lifted.”
The governor said he expected social distancing guidelines to be followed at these establishments – and stressed that law enforcement officers reserved the right to cite violators.
“We are urging everyone to be careful,” McMaster said. “Think about the danger that is still posed by the virus.”
As McMaster announced his plans, officials with the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control (SCDHEC) reported that new confirmed or presumed positive coronavirus cases had topped 200 for the second consecutive day. That’s the first time cases have exceeded 200 in back-to-back days since April 9-10, 2020.
A week ago, McMaster lifted a statewide stay-at-home order – and permitted South Carolina restaurants to begin offering outdoor dining to patrons. The governor indicated a further relaxation of restaurant restrictions could come as early as next week.
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“The virus has been chasing us but now we are turning the tables,” McMaster said. “We have a very aggressive effort that we’ve launched.”
McMaster said he intended to address “close service contact” industries – including spas, hair salons, gyms and barber shops – on Monday.
“We hope to have a decision made and announced as early as Monday on those,” he said. “We moved into this in a very deliberate, gradual fashion.”
McMaster ordered these businesses closed on March 31, 2020 and has been under intense pressure to allow them to reopen. One state lawmaker pushed the governor on this front last week – pleading with him to keep in mind “the plight of these and many other business owners across the state.”
“Throughout this crisis, we have seen government halt and stifle labor which it deemed ‘non essential,’” state representative Stewart Jones said in submitting a petition on behalf of these businesses to the governor office. “Hair stylists, physical trainers, cooks, waitresses, event planners, and many others – ALL livelihoods are absolutely essential.”
Still, McMaster said he is unlikely to rescind his order related to these businesses when he addresses the issue next week.
“I don’t think (restrictions) will be lifted on Monday,” he said.
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