DHEC explains why businesses aren’t required to close if employee tests positive for COVID-19

DHEC explains why businesses aren’t required to close if employee tests positive for COVID-19
South Carolina does not require a business to close even if one of its employees tests positive for the novel coronavirus. (Source: Photo by Ibrahim Boran from Pexels)

MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WMBF/WCSC) - If a South Carolina business learns one of its employees tests positive for coronavirus, the business is not required to close its doors.

It’s a fact that may surprise some as several Lowcountry businesses have announced voluntary temporary closures while they sanitize their premises and await COVID-19 test results for their other employees or because of the danger of the spread of the virus even if their employees have not tested positive.

But according to the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control, it’s up to individual businesses to decide whether they will remain open or temporarily close if staff members contract the virus.

DHEC Physician Brannon Traxler said they’re asking businesses to contact them for guidance if an employee tests positive for COVID-19. But that depends on the business choosing to reach out to the agency.

“The biggest thing we ask any employer, especially when it involves children [services] like daycares, that they work with our DHEC team,” Brannon said. “Advice may be different from one location to the next, in terms of closing.”

Some people want to know why DHEC isn’t recommending businesses close down again if it could slow down the spike they’re seeing in Horry County.

DHEC’s Chief of Staff Jennifer Reed said closing down any business is for Gov. Henry McMaster to decide, not DHEC.

“Our focus is on monitoring infection rates and keeping our decision-makers informed so they can make the decision,” Reed said. “I know everyone is tired of hearing us talk about masking and social distancing, but keep in mind, places don’t spread COVID 19, people do.”

Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce President Karen Riordan applauds businesses that made the difficult decision to temporarily close to protect the safety of their employees and guests.

“[Closing down], that’s not a requirement from DHEC or the state,” Riordan said. “But we want our restaurants, retail, lodging attractions, to do the right thing, get that employee into quarantine. Then do contact tracing, notify all the people that employees may have been working with and get them into quarantine as well.”

DHEC medical experts said they’re currently working on written guidelines for businesses, to assist employers with how to respond during these type of pandemic emergencies.

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