McMaster empowers cities to open beaches. Local towns still have to vote to open beaches | Covid-19 coverage
SC Governor Henry McMaster announced Monday that he would allow cities to reopen their public beach access points from noon Tuesday and let some retailers reopen, though his stay-at-home order ( except travel for family, work and leisure) and social distancing guidelines remain in place. Groups of three or more can still be separated and sanctioned by the police.
“On March 30, I issued an order that closed access to beaches along our state,” McMaster said at Monday’s press conference. “Today, I am canceling this order as of noon tomorrow for these beaches and I withdraw the power of this order from these governments so that the decision-making returns to these governments, to these beaches, to these places to take their own decisions. “
Myrtle Beach City Manager John Pedersen on Monday issued an executive order to keep beaches closed until the city’s declaration of emergency expires or is rescinded, or city council takes action to reopen them.
North Myrtle Beach spokesman Pat Dowling said city council should vote to reopen its beaches. North Myrtle Beach has a meeting scheduled for Monday night, but beaches are not on the agenda. Dowling said advisers could choose to add it as an agenda item if they wanted.
Horry County Councilor Johnny Vaught said beach access to unincorporated areas in the county is expected to reopen on Tuesday. Vaught said county leaders have never voted to close public accesses, so opening them should be as easy as removing barricades.
“All we did was follow the governor when he said to shut them down,” he said. “So we don’t have to do anything. … We’re not going to do much with it. We’re just going to do it.”
County spokeswoman Kelly Moore confirmed via text message that the county’s beach access would reopen at noon on Tuesday.
Citing people’s “compliance and common sense”, the governor also gave the green light to retailers that had been closed by his April 3 order to reopen, provided they were limited to 20% occupancy or five customers per 1000 square feet, depending on the date selected. is less. These businesses include furniture stores, jewelry stores, clothing stores, shoe stores, sporting goods stores, bookstores, music stores, craft stores, florists, flea markets. and luggage and leather stores.
The announcement follows pressure from several upstate state lawmakers to have McMaster reopen parts of South Carolina’s economy, which has been largely shut down in an attempt to slow the spread of COVID-19.
Local state officials Alan Clemmons, who lives and represents Myrtle Beach, and Stephen Goldfinch of Murrells Inlet, who represents coastal areas of Georgetown County and parts of Horry and Charleston counties, have advocated for the reopening of the beaches.
Goldfinch has consistently criticized McMaster’s decision to close beach access and boat landings, and Clemmons sent a letter to McMaster dated Friday, asking him to reopen the beaches. The governor reopened boat landings last week.
“It’s certainly controversial, but I think what people need to remember is that the purpose of these restrictions was to try and slow the virus down enough to test the health care system and make sure our hospitals can handle the virus, ”Goldfinch said. “The hospitals have now said, ‘We think we can handle them easily.’”
State Senator Luke Rankin, who represents a large part of Myrtle Beach, Carolina Forest and Conway, said in a text he was happy McMaster had handed control of the beaches to local governments.
“Like waterways and boat landings, we should have access to them as long as we practice good social distancing,” Rankin said.
The new orders do not lift the mandatory 2-week quarantines for people coming to South Carolina from COVID-19 hotspots. Horry County and the local coastal towns of North Myrtle Beach, Myrtle Beach and Surfside Beach have all passed ordinances banning short-term rentals for the month of April.
While the actual number of COVID-19 cases is likely much higher than the number of DHEC cases due to asymptomatic patients and patients who have not been tested, the number of laboratory-confirmed cases has been lower than state projections.
DHEC predicted that South Carolina would have a cumulative total of confirmed cases of 4,969 patients by Saturday. But as of that date, the state had only 4,246 patients.
The state has also recorded a downward trend in terms of deaths. DHEC projected that the condition would peak with new deaths on April 9. On April 8, the agency reported 12 new deaths, and the state has not seen a single day with so many deaths since.
State epidemiologist Dr Linda Bell said on Monday that modeling showed South Carolina’s curve may have started to flatten. She said the state expects to see about 750 new cases per week at the start of May, a reduction from the state’s previous projection of nearly 2,000 new cases per week. She said DHEC was projecting the state to see a total of 6,953 patients by May 9.
DHEC reports consistently show that hospital bed capacity hovers around 50 percent over the past two weeks. Horry County’s hospital bed utilization rate was less than 49% on Sunday, DHEC data showed.
The decline in hospital visits since McMaster asked hospitals to stop elective visits has resulted in layoffs and leaves at several hospital systems in South Carolina, including the Medical University of South Carolina, the Conway Medical Center and Tidelands Health.
“MUSC said they thought they could meet peak demand without a problem, and the rest of the hospitals came out with the same response. When this revelation came out, it seemed like it was a pretty straightforward solution to getting people entertained at the beach, ”Goldfinch added. “The majority of us want to do the right thing, we want to use the beach as a safe place to social distance. I think it can be done effectively, and I think it should be done. “
Some businesses are still closed. These include:
• Entertainment venues such as nightclubs, bowling alleys, arcades, concert halls, theaters, auditoriums, performing arts centers, tourist attractions, racetracks and playgrounds indoor for children, excluding day care centers.
• Adult entertainment venues, bingo halls, social club sites and sports facilities that deal with sports requiring interaction with anyone within six feet or shared equipment.
• Hair Salons, Hair Salons, Hair Removal Salons, Threading Salons, Nail Salons, Spas, Body Art Facilities, Tattoo Services, Tanning Salons, Massage Therapy and Massage Services.
Schools are still online and restaurants are still limited to take out only.
But McMaster defended his position to reopen some businesses.
“We’re still in dire straits. But also, South Carolina’s business is business,” the governor said. “As much as possible, we need to let these businesses run, because people want to work, they need to work, their families need work, they need jobs, and we’re going to do whatever we can to do. . to see that they can do it and get on with their lives as much as possible in these very serious situations. “
Rankin said the gradual reopening must take place.
“Many small businesses are paying a heavy price for this closure,” he said. “We must recognize the unique characteristics of our state, compared to the most populous regions of the country. Fortunately, the worst can be very near and by no means as bad as other states.”