WEST COLUMBIA, S.C. — South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster is reopening all state beaches and many types of retail stores that had been closed, but the reopening will come with some restrictions.
McMaster spoke Monday at the state's emergency operation center. The governor issued two new executive orders to put in place the relaxed rules:
Retail stores reopened:
The stores rules went into effect at 5 p.m. Monday. It effects the following types of businesses:
- Furniture and home-furnishings stores
- Clothing, shoe, and clothing-accessory stores
- Jewelry, luggage, and leather goods stores
- Department stores, with the exception of hardware and home-improvement stores
- Sporting goods stores
- Book, craft, and music stores
- Flea markets
- Florists and flower stores
Businesses must still practice social distancing, and must allow only 20 percent of their occupancy, or 5 customers for every 1,000 square feet, whichever is less.
"Our measures deliberate approach has been the right one we believe," McMaster said.
The order does not relax restrictions for "close contact" businesses such as beauty salons, barbershops, nail salons, and tanning salons.
Beach Rules Relaxed
The beaches changes go into effect at 12 p.m. Tuesday. It lifts the state restrictions on beach closings, but allows local governments to make their own decisions about reopening. Some cities had already said before the governor's briefing they would still keep restrictions.
Law enforcement can still break up groups of three or more that may be a safety threat on beaches.
Schools decision soon:
Gov. McMaster did not say when a decision on schools may happen, saying that state leaders were studying the data. South Carolina Education Superintendent Molly Spearman said that she expected the decision by the end of the week. She did, however, reveal that a survey of education superintendents revealed that most of them did not want to reopen for the current school year.
Accelerate South Carolina:
McMaster also said that he's created a group called accelerateSC, which will coordinate the state's economic recovery and ways the reopen things safely. It will be led by James Burns, a partner at the law firm of Nelson, Mullins, Riley and Scarborough.
The governor said he wants to get the economy up as soon as he can.
"We must be ready to stomp on the gas when the green light comes up," McMaster said.
The group will exist for 30 days. It will also address how to protect vulnerable citizens during the reopening.
"We are still in a very serious situation," he said. "We know this virus spreads easily, and we know that it deadly to people who are older or that have compromised immune systems," he said.
Over the weekend, some state lawmakers began saying that they’d been told the governor was going to reopen the beaches and relax rules on retail stores.
When they heard about that, some local governments pushed back on the order, saying that don't want to reopen beaches. The governor's order, it appears, was built to address those concerns.
The towns of Isle of Palms, Sullivan's Island, Folly Beach, and Edisto Beach--all in Charleston County--sent a joint statement Sunday saying they remained concerned about the spread of the virus. They said it was their intent to restrict access to those beaches to only people who live in the area.
Myrtle Beach announced Monday it would also keep their restrictions on public access to beaches in place for now. They will remain in effect until the emergency order is lifted or until action is taken by city council.
And Hilton Head in Beaufort likely will do the same. The town manager told The Island Packet that they wouldn't lift their restrictions until April 30. They intended to pass a resolution that would extend the ban until that date except for activities such as walking, running, biking, surfing, and fishing as long as social distancing is used.
McMaster closed beaches and public ramps and docks on March 30 after there were reports that people weren't adhering to social distancing guidelines. He closed retail shops including department stores, furniture stores, and jewelry stores on April 3.
McMaster then issued a home or work order, essentially a stay-at-home order, on April 7.