COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — Gov. Henry McMaster is expected on Monday to extend the state’s emergency declaration that allows him to issue executive orders necessary to deal with the coronavirus pandemic.
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McMaster spokesman Brian Symmes said the declaration would come as the current 15-day declaration expires. McMaster’s initial declaration came on March 13.
The governor, who has said his goal is to have the South Carolina economy “humming” again by June, has already begun to loosen the restrictions that have shuttered portions of the state’s business community for weeks. Last week, he said some businesses previously deemed nonessential — department stores, flea markets, florists, bookstores and music shops — would be allowed to reopen.
An official stay-at-home order remains in place, although that mandate already allowed the patronage of essential businesses such as grocery stores, pharmacies, home improvement stores and medical facilities, as well as thousands of others that received waivers from state officials.
Earlier, McMaster announced the reopening of public boat ramps that had been closed for several weeks and encouraged anyone on the state’s waterways to practice social distancing. Public beach access points were also set to reopen, although the governor said ultimate reopening decisions will rest with local officials. Some coastal municipalities have already said they “intend to maintain the entry checkpoints and access restrictions.”
Last week, the governor convened the first gathering of a group called “accelerateSC,” a confab of business, governmental and health care officials tasked with advising him on safely reopening the state’s economy. A subset of the group focused on governance planned to meet later Monday.
On Sunday, McMaster gathered with other officials including U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, to accept delivery of 1.5 million surgical masks from China, with Graham calling for a lessening of U.S. reliance on the foreign country.
“We want the masks made in the United States,” Graham said on the tarmac of the Greenville-Spartanburg Airport, after watching the unloading of the masks from a Boeing aircraft. “We don’t want to ever have to rely on China or anyone else for our basic health care needs.”
Meg Kinnard can be reached at http://twitter.com/MegKinnardAP