CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - Gov. Henry McMaster has issued an executive order that reopens public boat landings and ramps for recreation and fishing in South Carolina.
Officials with the Department of Natural Resources say the landings and ramps will be open effective Friday, April 17 at 12 p.m. and will be available for launching or retrieving boats by the public.
McMaster emphasizes that his previous orders enforcing social distancing still apply. Piers, docks, wharfs, and public beach accesses will remain closed.
The governor said he made the decision to reopen boat landings and ramps because it was a step that he could do now towards revitalization of the state.
“It’s a small step, but it is a step and there will be more,” McMaster said. “A lot of families like to get on the water so we’re going to open those ramps back up. But we still insist, watch your social distancing.”
Under McMaster’s new executive order, public boat landings and their parking lots can now be opened at the discretion of the local government or managing authority. The order also states that the authority can also close or restrict access to their landing if they determine it’s necessary to protect public health.
As for opening the rest of South Carolina back up, the governor said he does not have a set time of when that will be, but anticipated that it may be sooner rather than later compared to other states.
“I think we’ll be able to even get ahead of some of our other states because of the way that we took a deliberate path in closing down only those things necessary that were places where the disease would spread the quickest,” McMaster said.
The governor said he estimates that there will be businesses back up sometime in May.
“And we’ll be ‘humming’ again by the end of June which is the end of the fiscal year,” he said.
McMaster said he hopes to call the legislature back before that date so they can pass necessary legislation to keep the ball rolling in terms of reopening businesses and the reimbursement of state funds that were used to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.
The governor also touched on a phone call he and other governors had with President Donald Trump before Thursday’s press conference.
McMaster said Trump told the governors that it will be up to them to decide when they reopen.
“He’s leaving it up to the governors,” McMaster said. “And it was emphasized in that conference call that every state is different in parts of the state, so different from other parts. But there are a lot of excellent recommendations, many of the things that are listed there, of course, we’ve already done."
McMaster also announced on Thursday “Accelerate South Carolina” which will be a group that will come up with the best practices to get businesses in the state back up and running.
That group will be made up from people from manufacturing, tourism, hospitality, and agribusiness.
“We’re going to find the best ways to do it quickly and safely," McMaster said.
South Carolina health officials announced two more COVID-19 related deaths and 276 new cases.
Thursday’s update brings the total number of people confirmed to have COVID-19 in the state to 3,931, and those who have died to 109, according to the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control.
The new cases reported in Thursday include 3 in Beaufort, 16 in Berkeley, 23 in Charleston, 1 in Dorchester, 1 in Georgetown, and 2 in Orangeburg.
As of Thursday evening there have been a total of 36, 284 coronavirus tests with 32,353 testing negative and 3,931 testing positive.
Currently, state health officials estimate there are a total of 28,079 possible cases in the state. The estimate counts represent reported cases and people who are potentially undiagnosed.
According to state health officials, estimated cases are calculated based on evidence that for every known case of COVID-19, there could be up to 9 people with the virus who remain unidentified in the community.
As of Thursday morning, 5,074 hospital beds are available and 6,283 are utilized, which is a 55.3% statewide hospital bed utilization rate, state health officials reported.