COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Gov. Henry McMaster announced new executive action Friday to help stop the spread of COVID-19 as cases surge in South Carolina.
The governor has issued a new executive order to prevent late-night gatherings at bars and restaurants. He is restricting the sale of alcohol at these businesses, saying they must stop selling alcohol at 11 p.m. every night.
It goes into effect on Saturday, July 11.
The order does not affect the sale of alcohol at convenience stores, grocery stores or other retail stores.
The director of the Department of Revenue said the order does apply to about 8,000 businesses with alcohol and beverage licenses and that the department will work with SLED and local law enforcement to monitor compliance.
If a business violates the order, it will first be given a warning. Businesses could have their alcohol license suspended or revoked if they are found in violation again.
“This is an order that the state can enforce,” the governor said.
McMaster says this is in direct response to the skyrocketing number of cases among young people in the state. He says he hopes this sends a message that young adults need to take the virus seriously.
“We are saying emphatically it’s time for our younger adults to behave like mature adults,” the governor said. “We hope this will help all of us, particularly the younger generations, to realize just how serious this virus is, and just how much is at stake if we don’t see these infection rates start dropping.”
He is worried about young people spreading COVID-19 to other segments of the population. Dr. Joan Duwve, Director of Public Health for DHEC, echoed those concerns.
She said nearly half of the total cases reported in the state so far have occurred in just the past two weeks. She added that 22% of positive cases are from people aged 21 to 30.
Duwve urged people to think about what case numbers in South Carolina could look like in two weeks “if people continue not to wear masks and social distance.”
“If we don’t avoid these risky social activities, if we don’t social distance and we don’t wear our masks... we will see more of our friends, our family members and our loved ones become ill, become hospitalized, ventilated and die,” she said Friday.
McMaster said he has no plans to reorder businesses and parts of the economy to close again.
“We are not going to go back and close business,” he said. “We cannot do it.”
South Carolina was one of the first states to begin reopening in early April.
The number of cases reported on April 4 (when McMaster began easing restrictions) was 135.
Friday, the number of reported cases was 1,725. That’s more than a 900% increase.
However, McMaster said that with things like his latest executive order, the numbers will go back down.
“We know that it can be controlled if we wear that mask, wash hands and keep that social distance,” he said.
McMaster also mentioned the desire to reopen schools to in-person learning when announcing his new order.
This as debate over how to reopen schools for the fall semester heats up across the state, and the nation.
President Donald Trump wants schools to reopen to in-person learning and has threatened to withhold funding for public schools if they do not do so.
McMaster spoke strongly about reopening schools Friday, citing the American Academy of Pediatricians, who say say students need to get back to in-person learning to combat other issues such as mental health, abuse, neglect and hunger in children.
Several teacher advocacy groups in South Carolina have called for virtual-only instruction, citing the safety of teachers and other adult staff members in schools.
In order to reopen schools safely, Dr. Debbie Greenhouse, a pediatrician, spoke before the State Senate earlier this week and suggested the governor close bars, close indoor dining and issue a statewide mask mandate to help slow the spread of the virus.
McMaster has repeatedly said he will not issue a statewide mask mandate because it’s not “enforceable.” But he did say local governments should take their own action.
Numerous cities and counties across the state have issued their own mask ordinances. Click or tap here to see the full list.