Child care concerns, reopening tourist attractions part of latest AccelerateSC discussion

Child care concerns, reopening tourist attractions part of latest AccelerateSC discussion
Latest reopenings in SC (Source: WIS)

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - South Carolina is now just days away from reopening close contact businesses like barbershops, nail salons and gyms. This was part of the discussion at the latest AccelerateSC Task Force meeting, Wednesday, May 13 at the University of South Carolina Alumni Center.

The state is also looking ahead to what’s next for other industries still needing to be reopened. This includes amusement parks and other tourist attractions that our state’s economy strongly depends on, especially as the summer season approaches.

With restaurants, or even close contact businesses, the number of customers being served at once can be limited to a small amount of people. This isn’t necessarily the case with places like amusement parks. Some officials say this could be a problem in regards to contact tracing, when needing to go back and identify all of the people a particular person has been in contact with after testing positive for COVID-19.

Expanded testing and contact tracing are two important elements as states reopen according to federal health guidelines. South Carolina state leaders have committed to both, though there have been privacy concerns with the contact tracing process.

In remarks made shortly after Wednesday’s AccelerateSC meeting, Governor Henry McMaster said, “When someone has tested positive, then they are asked to give information as to where they’ve been and whom they’ve seen where they have been in close contact situations – not just passing people on the street or saying, ‘hello’ to someone but actually been in closer contact than that. They’re not required to give that information. Everyone’s identify, of course, is protected.”

The Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) has said in recent weeks that the agency will be taking on 1,000 contact tracers. The governor says he’s confident these efforts will be done in the right way.

Another concern as we prepare to fully reopen the state is the greater need for child care. A representative with the Department of Social Services (DSS) addressed this during Wednesday’s AccelerateSC meeting. He said right now 48% (1,154) of licensed child care facilities across the state are closed. This is down from the 53% (1,288) that were closed back in mid-April.

That same representative also points out that there has never been an executive order mandating that these facilities close.

DSS officials say they’ve been reaching out to find out the needs of these child care centers to figure out what’s next.

Two weeks ago, the state received nearly $65 million in federal child care funding through the CARES Act.

Although Governor McMaster says he’s ready for the state to get back to work, and we’re seeing more and more businesses begin to reopen, he also says this is not a requirement.

“The customers seeking to protect themselves have a choice to make when they go into a place. We presume that the businesses will use their best judgement in following the guidelines to be safe. But, in the end, if a business does not feel comfortable opening because of their clientele, because of the kind of service that they provide – if they want to take more time to develop their own response and their own procedures following those guidelines, that is purely up to the establishment,” said the governor.

Governor McMaster says law enforcement will still have the authority to break up any groups they feel are a threat to public health.

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