Law enforcement ordered by SC governor to disperse groups of 3 or more at their discretion

Updated: Mar. 23, 2020 at 11:36 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - Gov. Henry McMaster has ordered all South Carolina law enforcement agencies to prohibit or disperse any gatherings of three or more people if officers believe it poses a public threat.

McMaster said this executive order, which he ordered during a press conference on the latest coronavirus cases in the state, does not apply to people in homes or businesses like grocery stores.

The governor said the order is designed for large crowds that he says officials have observed in different places including beaches.

“And I’ll say again it is designed for crowds," McMaster said during a press conference on Monday."We’ve seen them on the beaches, we’ve seen them on the islands or on the coast. And every now and then you see them in the parking lots and lots of kinds of places."

The governor said law enforcement will be given discretion on each case and asked them to use common sense when applying the order.

Charleston Police Chief Luther Reynolds said he is worried about how the enforcement of the governor’s order may impact his officers’ ability to respond to other calls for service.

“If our officers are distracted and having with these groups, one they’re being exposed potentially to the virus itself unnecessarily," Reynolds said."But even more importantly or equally important is that we are taking out a good resource of a valued commodity, our public safety, away from protecting our businesses, away from protecting our communities, away from fighting violence and other crime because we have to deal with keeping people in adherence to social distancing.”

“As I’ve said nothing is off the table,” McMaster said during a press conference outlying the order."We are taking the necessary steps to stay ahead."

One of those steps that may be on the table include a shelter-in-place order which has not been issued.

McMaster said the “drastic action" is something he hopes will not be necessary.

To stave off that order, he urged South Carolinians to continue to practice good hygiene and social distancing.

"And many South Carolinians are taking precautions that will render [a shelter-in-place order] unnecessary, " McMaster said. “They’re staying at home using good personal hygiene. Washing their hands, cleaning surfaces and not take touching their nose and mouth and the eyes...and they are using common sense.”

The governor also told people to stay home if possible and not to hoard supplies.

McMaster assured the public that there was plenty of food and supplies that were being transported to grocery stores.

During the governor’s press conference, state health officials announced that they were investigating 103 new cases of coronavirus in the state which includes 17 cases in Charleston County.

This brings the total number statewide to 298 cases in 34 counties, according to the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control.

In addition, DHEC reported two more coronavirus related deaths.

One patient was an elderly person from Clarendon County, who had underlying health conditions.

The second patient was an elderly person from Kershaw County who also had underlying health conditions.

This brings the state’s total number of deaths to five, according to the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control.

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