CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - Gov. Henry McMaster said on Wednesday that he has no intention to close businesses and urged people to practice social distancing and be smart. This follows after South Carolina saw an increase of positive cases in the past few days.
The latest numbers announced by Dr. Linda Bell with DHEC showed 528 new cases of COVID-19 and 7 more deaths in South Carolina on Wednesday.
Today’s update brings the total number of people confirmed to have COVID-19 in the state to 15,759, and those who have died to 575, according to the Department of Health and Environmental Control. The latest data from DHEC shows that 80% of patients have recovered from the virus, while 20% remain ill.
“If closing all the businesses was the answer, then the places that have done that would would be doing great, but they’re not,” McMaster said during a press conference Wednesday afternoon. “That’s not the answer.”
He cited Minnesota and New York as examples where shutting businesses down did not solve the problem with the virus.
The governor said the answer to the virus is that of individual responsibility. McMaster urged several times during during the press conference that the public needs to practice social distancing and “be smart.”
McMaster said the virus has slowed the state’s economy, but that businesses and individuals can’t stop and remain shuttered or restricted much longer.
“Don’t just think of the businesses in the big buildings, think of the families, think of the people who are dependent on their jobs,” he said. “Just think of those people, young and old, they need to work. They have to have money to pursue their life’s plans, to feed their children, to pay the mortgage, to pay the bills, keep the electricity on. So, we have to get back to work.”
Bell reiterated McMaster’s urgings for people to socially distance themselves and wear masks, and also was concerned about the latest numbers involving the virus.
“I am more concerned about COVID-19 in South Carolina than I have ever been before,” Bell said during Wednesday afternoon’s press conference. “Your community might not be a hotspot today. But there should be no mistake that COVID-19 transmission is still high.”
According to Bell, state health officials have seen some of the highest daily numbers since the pandemic began.
Bell said that she’s seen lots of activity of gatherings with no social distancing and very rare use of masks, so the numbers that the state is seeing are not unexpected.
“What we're seeing is a sort of slightly ongoing upward trend,” she said. “There are lots of activities going on now. They're not only the protests, but there are behaviors in lots of communities where people do not appear to be paying attention to social distancing.”
McMaster said the recent increases in the positive cases would be one of many considerations regarding the re-opening of other businesses that remain closed which include entertainment venues like theaters and concert halls.
When asked if he would be ordering people to wear masks in public in places like restaurants, the governor said he could not do it due to limitations which include enforcement.
The governor said it would be up to the businesses and individuals to enforce health recommendations.
“The best enforcement is that restaurant,” McMaster said. “We do not have enough police officers to go around the entire state and enforce mandates. They may walk in and everybody puts a mask on, and when they walk out, they take them off. Again, it is up to the people to determine what kind of precautions need to be followed.”
You can watch the full presser below or click here.
The governor also released his recommendations to the South Carolina General Assembly for how the state’s share of federal CARES Act funds should be invested.
Among the governor’s specific recommendations is, at a minimum, a $500 million investment in the state’s Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund, which has been depleted due to COVID-19’s economic impact to the state, according to the governor’s office.
“Many businesses will not survive paying higher taxes to replenish the fund twice in one decade," McMaster said."This nightmare can be avoided by immediately directing $500,000,000 be deposited into the unemployment insurance trust fund, with the understanding that additional funds will be necessary as the full impact on the unemployment insurance trust fund is calculated in the coming months.”
McMaster said the disbursal of CRF funds should be done in two phases.
“The first phase done this month before the close of the fiscal year to address the most pressing and time sensitive needs,” he said. "A second phase of needs can be addressed by the General Assembly at a later date.”