Lawmaker wants McMaster to declare state of emergency over coronavirus

Lawmaker wants McMaster to declare state of emergency over coronavirus
South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster asked lawmakers Thursday to release $45 million to state health officials as soon as possible for respond to the virus. (Source: Live 5 News)

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCSC/AP) - A South Carolina lawmaker says he is calling on Gov. Henry McMaster to declare a state of emergency in the Palmetto State because of the novel coronavirus, COVID-19.

South Carolina announced two additional cases of the virus Thursday, bringing the total number to 12. Six of those cases are confirmed by the CDC while the remaining six are still awaiting confirmation.

McMaster asked lawmakers to release $45 million to state health officials as soon as possible for respond to the virus.

Republicans Rep. Jay Lucas of Darlington and House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Murrell Smith of Sumter released a statement Thursday in response to McMaster's request:

We support Governor McMaster’s call to make resources available for state agencies as South Carolina continues to deal with the worldwide outbreak of the COVID-19 virus. The General Assembly has established contingency reserve funds specifically to allow state government the flexibility to respond to such a crisis. The health and safety of our citizens is the highest priority of the House and we will continue to work to ensure that appropriate resources are available to respond to the impact of COVID-19.

The South Carolina House is not meeting next week, but that was a planned break after the chamber finished the state budget.

But Democrat Rep. John King says he plans to file a bill when the House reconvenes requesting state resources to to be activated through a state of emerency declaration, according to a news release.

King also called on McMaster to take the following actions:

  • Ensure unemployment funding for people in this state is made available
  • Moratorium on turning water, electricity, and gas utilities off
  • Moratorium on evictions
  • Moratorium on penalties on: mortgages, rent, and bank fees
  • Ensuring that first responders have all supplies and methods of protection
  • Quickly available testing with reasonable response times
  • Easily accessible information for the public
  • Elimination of deductibles related to the testing of COVID-19 and for the care of individuals who test positive for the virus
  • An extension of the tax deadline and the filing deadline for the SC primaries

“All available evidence suggests that this is a rapidly-escalating danger, as the number of confirmed cases in the United States is projected to spike in the coming weeks,” King said in the statement. “We must be prepared for that to happen in South Carolina.”

The president of the South Carolina Senate, meanwhile, says the chamber plans to meet next week amid a flurry of other cancellations in response to the new coronavirus.

Sen. Harvey Peeler said Thursday it would send a mixed message to say don't panic and follow good hygiene and then close the Senate.

Copyright 2020 WCSC. The Associated Press contributed to this report.