SC gyms, hair salons, barbershops and more may reopen beginning May 18

The governor said he is lifting restrictions to allow those businesses to reopen Monday, May 18. They can open starting at 12:01 a.m. that day.
Updated: May. 12, 2020 at 6:03 AM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Gov. Henry McMaster will allow close-contact businesses and recreation facilities to reopen soon across the state.

The governor said he is lifting restrictions to allow those businesses to reopen Monday, May 18. They can open starting at 12:01 a.m. that day.

The businesses that can reopen include the following:

  • hair salons
  • barbershops
  • gyms
  • group fitness studios
  • waxing salons
  • nail salons
  • threading salons
  • spas
  • public pools
  • massage therapy
  • body-art and tattoo parlors

Those have been closed since April 1.

Many salon owners say they are excited and eager to get back to work.

Metropolis Salon owner Gregory Garrett estimates his business has lost close to $100,000 since closing nearly six weeks ago. Garrett says many salons won’t recover from this significant closure.

“I could easily see 20 percent of our industry just not returning," he explained.

He’s planning to implement several new procedures inside his salon, such as requiring staff to wear face masks, eliminating his waiting room, and asking customers to wait in their cars and spacing out chairs more than eight feet apart.

“We already have really good sanitation measures in place," Garrett said. “As a large salon, we sanitize every brush, cape, towel, it doesn’t touch another person until it’s washed or sanitized. That’s been something we’ve done the entire time.”

He says it will take several days to get his staff trained on the new procedures and to prepare the salon to reopen, so Garrett says he is thankful the governor gave salons a week’s notice. However, he says he’s frustrated salons received no communication about the guidelines that will be required until they were posted online Monday.

“Everyone’s situation is different. At a single-person salon, it might be significantly easier for them to open, but we have such a variety of employment practices here that a bigger salon is going to take some time,” Garrett explained. “Some communication before that would be key to opening successfully and with the least amount of anxiety.”

Studio K owner Keri Grier says she also didn’t receive any guidance about reopening until Monday. Grier says she was already planning to eliminate her waiting room and to keep her salon door open so fewer people touch that surface.

“We’re going to do everything we can to make sure everyone is safe in our salon,” she said.

Grier says it’s been difficult to watch restaurants reopen while her salon has been forced to remain closed.

“As a business owner, it’s a tough pill to swallow when you see people out and about freely in restaurants, and shopping at their free will, but livelihood is our number one thing right now,” Grier said. “We are going to wear masks, and we’re going to take all precautions, so I just believe it’s everyone’s own decision, where if they want to come, they can, and if they don’t feel safe, they can certainly wait.”

The governor said it is possible to reopen these facilities safely because of increased testing in the state.

“We have an opportunity to set an example for the rest of the world by reinvigorating our economy while staying safe, but we can only do that if South Carolinians continue to follow the advice and recommendations of our public health experts,” McMaster said.

These businesses must operate at a limited capacity, the governor said. It is up to business owners to decide to reopen May 18, or wait until they feel they are ready.

Click on the following links to see the reopening guidelines and what protections will be in place for customers:

Even as businesses reopen, McMaster and health officials have stressed the continued importance of practicing social distancing, such as staying six feet apart, wearing a mask in public, and practicing good personal hygiene and handwashing.

Monday, May 11 marks the first day restaurants and bars can serve customers inside their dining rooms since the outbreak began. Several restrictions are in place to protect the well-being of the public.

Other businesses the governor closed by executive order have since been allowed to reopen, as well.

“The first group of state employees will begin returning to their offices once there is ample personal protective equipment on site, but no later than June 1st,” he said.

As restrictions continue to disappear, WIS asked Dr. Linda Bell, State Epidemiologist, if she recommends the phased re-opening of the state, and it’s progress so far.

“What we can do for the people who are looking to resume their normal activities, is to provide the guidance that’s available for them to do that as safely as possible,” Dr. Bell said. “So it’s really not about recommending what they should and should not do, we want everyone to be aware that we continue to see significant disease transmission in the community. We want everyone to be aware that they’re still potentially at risk, so I would add to that, we want everyone to be their own personal physicians and take care of themselves, but we’re also asking people to be community minded.”

As of Monday, May 11, there have been 7,792 reported cases of COVID-19 in the state and 346 virus-related deaths, according to data from the Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC).

That’s an increase of 140 cases and 15 deaths from the day before.

DHEC estimates that of those who have not died from the coronavirus, 81% of people who have tested positive have recovered.

That would mean more than 6,000 patients have recovered and about 1,400 are still fighting the virus currently.

DHEC reports about 89,970 tests have been completed in South Carolina. That’s 1.7% of the total population.

State health officials have announced efforts to expand testing, and people with mild symptoms of the coronavirus are now encouraged to seek a test.

As of Monday, more than 60% of the state’s hospital beds are available to care for patients. There has not been a shortage of hospital beds at anytime during the outbreak in South Carolina.

DHEC is also focused on contact tracing as new cases emerge. People will work to identify where someone contracted the virus and who else they may have spread it to after infection.

These numbers and more serve to inform the governor’s policy decisions. He has said he believes South Carolinians are taking the virus seriously and adhering to social distancing practices.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said the novel coronavirus, or COVID-19, is spread mainly from person-to-person by those in close contact, or through coughing and sneezing by someone who’s infected.

Symptoms of the 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, COVID-19 causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. But some severe cases can lead to death.

Most people can recover from the virus at home using over-the-counter medications to treat their symptoms.

Those who are at the highest risk of developing severe case of COVID-19 are 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.

Those who are hospitalized with serious cases of COVID-19 have trouble breathing, and many need support from ventilators, which breathe for them. The U.S. is working to produce more of the machines to prepare, but experts fear a shortage of the life-saving devices.

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.

Anyone with concerns about their health, or who believes they are showing symptoms such as fever, cough, or shortness of breath, should call their health care provider. Avoid going to the doctor or an emergency room unless the situation is life-threatening.

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 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 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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