S.C. governor closes all non-essential businesses to help fight spread of coronavirus as cases rise

There are 1,083 cases of the virus and 22 deaths in South Carolina
Gov. Henry McMaster and state health officials gave the latest update on COVID-19 in South Carolina on Tuesday.
Updated: Apr. 1, 2020 at 2:51 PM EDT
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WEST COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Gov. Henry McMaster just issued a sweeping executive order to close all businesses he deems non-essential in the state of South Carolina.

The governor is closing businesses in three categories for 15 days beginning at 5 p.m. on Wednesday, April 1 per his executive order:

Entertainment – bowling alleys, night clubs, arcades, concert halls, theaters, auditoriums, performing arts centers, tourist attractions including museums, racetracks , indoor children play areas (excluding daycares), adult entertainment venues, bingo halls, venues operated by social clubs

Athletic facilities and activities – fitness centers and gyms, spas and public pools, spectator sports, events that require shared sporting equipment, public playground equipment

Close contact service providers – barber shops, hair salons, waxing salons, nail salons, spas, body art facilities, tattoo parlors, tanning salons, massage therapy

“The virus is still spreading and still growing,” McMaster said. “We have to do everything we can... but not go too far and destroy businesses and jobs people are depending on.”

He added: “The bare minimum will close.”

McMaster said businesses that aren’t sure if they fall into the non-essential category should contact the South Carolina Dept. of Commerce. Those businesses can remain open until they hear from officials -- which should happen within 24 hours.

Contact the Dept. of Commerce on its website: www.sccommerce.com, by emailing covid19sc@sccommerce.com or by calling 803-734-2873.

Officials with the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) also shared the latest coronavirus case numbers for the state.

DHEC reported 158 new cases Tuesday -- meaning there are now 1,083 total cases of the virus in 42 of the state’s 46 counties.

There have also been four more deaths related to the virus, bringing the state total to 22.

One person who died was a “middle-aged individual” without any underlying health conditions, DHEC said.

The three other people who died were in the high-risk category for serious illness with the coronavirus: they were all elderly with underlying health conditions, DHEC said.

The people who died were residents of Aiken, Calhoun, Marion and York counties.

Richland County has the most cases of the coronavirus in the state, with 148.

(Story continues below interactive map)

Dr. Linda Bell, State Epidemiologist, said the desire of some to learn where people live who have tested positive is a “disturbing distraction.”

Bell said everyone in the state is at risk to catch the virus and should take the same precautions to fight the spread of the virus, no matter where they live.

She said the information creates a “false sense of security” for people living in areas without reported cases of the coronavirus.

“There are unrecognized cases everywhere,” she said.

Bell also said the CDC has reported community interventions are beginning to have an effect in some locations.

However, Bell said it’s worrisome because there is also growing evidence of people without symptoms spreading the virus, and evidence of longer-than-expected spread after someone becomes ill.

As of Tuesday, about 54% of all available hospital beds in the state are being used, Bell said.

McMaster has taken action against the spread of the coronavirus in several stages.

Monday, he issued an executive order closing all of the state’s beaches, as well as boat ramps, landings and other access points to the state’s lakes, rivers and waterways.

Previous executive orders closed public schools, closed dine-in areas of restaurants and bars and called for visitors from the country’s hot spots to self-quarantine while in South Carolina.

While the governor has taken steps to stop the spread of the virus, some are saying it’s not enough.

Local governments across the state, and politicians from both sides of the aisle, have called on him to issue a statewide stay-at-home order. Tuesday’s order -- while not quite going that far -- is the biggest step in that direction to date.

Several local governments have issued their own stay-at-home orders -- including the City of Columbia.

Richland County Council will discuss such an order Tuesday during a special meeting at 6 p.m.

During Tuesday’s news conference, McMaster echoed the state attorney general saying he (the governor) is the only person with emergency powers in the state to create such orders.

However, no legal challenges to local stay-at-home orders have been filed and Columbia’s ordinance went into effect Sunday with no issue.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said the coronavirus is spread mainly from person-to-person by those in close contact, or through coughing and sneezing by someone who’s infected.

Symptoms of coronavirus can show up between two and 14 days of exposure, health officials say. Symptoms include fever, cough and shortness of breath.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. But some severe cases can lead to death.

Those who are at the highest risk of catching COVID-19 are the young, the elderly and those who are already being treated for chronic medical diseases.

Young people who contract the virus are not likely to have a serious case, research shows. However, the CDC said about 40% of people who needed to be hospitalized due to the coronavirus are between the ages of 20 and 54.

Doctors say there is not currently a treatment or vaccine for COVID-19, but over-the-counter medications, like cold and cough medicines, can help treat symptoms of the virus.

The mortality rate for people with the virus has been widely reported around 2 to 3%, but health experts note the actual percentage is not that high, as not all cases are diagnosed or reported.

The rate is higher than the flu, which kills on average about 0.1% of people who get it, based on a 10-year average of data from the CDC.

People without a doctor can take advantage of free online screening from Prisma Health and the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC).

MUSC has an online platform to aid with coronavirus diagnosis and care. Go to musc.care and access the COVID-19 platform. The service is free with code: COVID19.

Prisma Health also has a free virtual visit, which allows patients to video conference with a doctor instead of coming into a facility. The goal is to keep patients who don’t need to be treated at a hospital at home. Go to prismahealth.org/virtual-visit and use promo code COVID19 for a free virtual visit.

For more information on COVID-19, click or tap here to visit the CDC’s website.

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