Confirmed cases rise to 22 in Beaufort County, 342 in state; death toll remains at 5
By Mike McCombs
As the number of confirmed COVID-19 novel coronavirus cases in South Carolina continues to rise, Gov. Henry McMaster on Tuesday released a joint statement with S.C. Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman announcing that schools would remain closed through the month of April.
“At this time, students, parents, and families should plan for South Carolina’s schools to remain closed through the month of April. Our dedicated teachers and school administrators have done a tremendous job in making it possible for our students to learn at home,” the statement read. “We understand that the prospect of schools remaining closed for an extended period of time places stress and strain on parents and children. Rest assured, if there is any way to safely open our schools earlier, we will do that, but schools must remain closed to protect the health and safety of South Carolinians.”
Just as his original March 15 order, this order too applies to public universities colleges and technical colleges. The Governor encourages those institutions to continue teaching through virtual learning.
S.C. DHEC announce 44 new cases on Tuesday, bringing the state total to 342. In Beaufort County, there are 22 confirmed cases after one more person tested positive Monday.
South Carolina’s death toll remains at 5.
On Monday, McMaster re-affirmed law enforcement’s right and responsibility to “do whatever may be deemed necessary to maintain peace and good order during the State of Emergency.”
The Governor reiterated law enforcement officials’ ability to shut down any congregation or gathering of “people, unless authorized or in their homes, in groups of three or more people” that in their discretion, poses, or could pose, a threat to public health.
McMaster’s decision to get tougher on citizens not practicing “social distancing” may have grown out of weekend events in Beaufort County.
“This weekend, we saw large crowds gathered on beaches, on sandbars, and in parking lots,” McMaster said in his Monday address. “We are facing a dangerous and deadly enemy and this type of behavior is both irresponsible and selfish. Law enforcement asked for clarification as to how this existing law applies during this state of emergency. I have included it in an executive order to make it clear that law enforcement has the ability to disperse groups of people who pose a risk to the public’s safety and to the safety of others.”
Throngs of people were enjoying themselves on the sandbar in the Beaufort River on Saturday, while hundreds were sunning and relaxing on the beach at Hunting Island.
“Unfortunately, because people did not show restraint,” City of Beaufort Mayor Billy Keyserling said in his weekly email newsletter, “we have been forced to reach out to the S.C. Department of Natural Resources and the Governor’s office seeking enforcement of the social distancing order.”
McMaster, upset like Keyserling, responded swiftly.
“It does not apply to private businesses nor to responsible South Carolinians continuing to make the best out of this situation,” he said. “And as I said, this is not a shelter-in-place order but another measure aimed at containing the virus by controlling crowds, so that we do not have to shelter in place.”