Gov. McMaster lifts SC beach access limits; local leaders to decide whether to reopen

Updated: Apr. 21, 2020 at 12:43 AM EDT
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - Gov. Henry McMaster has cancelled an executive order which closed access to South Carolina beaches. Beaches in the state can reopen on Tuesday at noon.

However, the governor said it will now be up to local leaders whether to reopen their beaches to public access.

“The decision making returns to those governments in those beaches to make their own decisions as they did before I issued the order,” McMaster said. “So we’re turning that back over to the mayors and the councils to make their own decision and that includes the public well as to the piers, docks, wharfs and ramps in those locations.”

Four Lowcountry beach communities have already agreed to continue island restrictions as they had expected the governor to re-open beach access.

Leaders with Isle of Palms, Sullivan’s Island, Folly Beach and Edisto Beach have been in contact with county officials since finding out about the governor’s plans.

The governor said the rule to disperse groups of three or more is continuing and also includes the beaches in the state.

“This is a gradual step, and we have confidence that it is a good, well thought out step," the governor said. “We are confident that the people will be able to operate safely with it.”

McMaster is also allowing certain businesses to reopen at 5 p.m. today.

Those businesses include furniture stores, clothing and shoe stores, jewelry and leather stores, department stores, sporting goods stores, book and music stores, flea markets and florists.

Restrictions that are in place for big box stores and home supply stores will be in affect for these stores as well which include either a maximum 20% of occupancy or five customers for every thousand square feet.

The governor said the decisions he announced on Monday are due in part to his observations that South Carolinians have been complying with the state’s and the CDC’s orders.

“We are ready to take some some steps that will help South Carolina assure that our economic health is as strong as our public health,” McMaster said.

However, McMaster cautioned that South Carolinians must continue to be proactive in regards to the coronavirus.

“I urge everyone to remember, we are still in a very serious situation,” he said. “We know that this disease spreads easily, and we know it is deadly, particularly to a lot of our people who are older or have weakening diseases that have weakened or suppressed their immune system. So we must be sure that we continue to be strict and disciplined with our social discipline and taking care not to infect others.”

The governor’s stay-at-home remains in place, as will the ban on eating inside restaurants.

Gov. McMaster holding news briefing on COVID-19

WATCH NOW: Gov. McMaster holding news briefing on COVID-19. INFO:

Posted by Live 5 News on Monday, April 20, 2020

On Monday, South Carolina health officials announced 64 new cases of COVID-19 and four additional virus-related deaths.

Monday’s update brings the total number of people confirmed to have COVID-19 in the state to 4,439 , and those who have died to 124, according to the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control.

Dr. Linda Bell with DHEC said on Monday that the curve on new cases may have begun to level in the state based on recent projections and modeling.

Bell cited a health report which indicated that South Carolina was estimated to have the most hospital bed use on April 16 and peak deaths on April 9 from COVID-19.

She also revealed a projection which indicated that South Carolina may see 750 new cases per week by early May, and the total cases to grow to 6,953 by around May 9.

“Together these two projections indicate the curve may have begun to level for us here in South Carolina,” Bell said. “Modeling projections and data trends vary and they can still change very quickly. And we recognize the need to be very, very cautious in relaxing preventive measures, so that we don’t see rebound disease activity.”

Copyright 2020 WCSC. The Associated Press contributed to this report. All rights reserved.