Gov. McMaster orders non-essential SC businesses closed amid outbreak

COLUMBIA, S.C. — Gov. Henry McMaster has ordered the closure of non-essential businesses in South Carolina, his latest in a stair-step escalation of measures aimed at quelling the new coronavirus outbreak.


The order, announced by the governor during a news conference on Tuesday, takes effect Wednesday and applies to thousands of businesses across the state, from tattoo parlors and hair salons to spas, nightclubs, theaters and museums.

Not included are grocery stores and pharmacies, as well as gas stations, banks and large-scale retailers like Walmart.

“We must do everything we can to stop the spread, be as aggressive as we can be, using the facts, but at the same time, not going too far, destroying business and jobs that people are depending on,” McMaster said, on why some businesses were being ordered to close and not others.

The state's two largest cities had enacted similar orders last week, but McMaster, a Republican, had previously shied away from issuing such a mandate for the entire state. Columbia and Charleston had opted not to lift their restrictions even after a Sunday opinion from state Attorney General Alan Wilson's office that only the governor has the power under a state of emergency to make that decision. Greenville, another of the state's largest cities, had planned to take up a similar proposal at a City Council meeting later Tuesday but postponed that meeting in anticipation of McMaster's action.

McMaster said Tuesday that his order superseded any municipal-level action.

McMaster’s announcement comes a day after he ordered the closing of all access points to the state’s beaches, doing so after police had to break up large gatherings throughout the weekend. He also closed public boat ramps and public access points to rivers and lakes.

“This is unfortunate for those who chose to responsibly follow the instructions of our public health officials, but it is a necessary action to prevent the spread of this dangerous virus," McMaster said in a statement with Monday's executive order.

The governor has previously closed dine-in restaurants and bars and reduced allowable gathering down to just three people.

Plenty of others have offered opinions. Democratic U.S. Rep. Joe Cunningham, on quarantine in his Charleston home after contracting COVID-19, said Monday that a statewide stay-at-home order is necessary to end the uncertainty of beach communities that don't want hundreds of outsiders visiting.

Also Monday, Republican state House Speaker Jay Lucas said that cities need to lay off issuing their own orders and trust the governor's response to the coronavirus. After McMaster's beach closure order, Catherine Templeton — a former state public health chief who challenged McMaster in the 2018 Republican primary — called on the governor to mandate South Carolinians shelter in place, saying on Twitter, “It is time and he is right to do it now.”

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. But for others, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, the virus can cause severe symptoms like pneumonia and be fatal. The disease is highly contagious.

South Carolina has reported at least 1,083 COVID-19 cases and 22 deaths, according to the Department of Health and Environmental Control’s Tuesday afternoon update.

The businesses that will be closed as a result of the governor’s executive order are as follows.

Entertainment venues and facilities as follows:

  • Night clubs
  • Bowling alleys
  • Arcades
  • Concert venues
  • Theaters, auditoriums, and performing arts centers
  • Tourist attractions (including museums, aquariums, and planetariums)
  • Racetracks
  • Indoor children’s play areas (excluding daycare facilities)
  • Adult entertainment venues
  • Bingo halls
  • Venues operated by social clubs

Recreational and athletic facilities and activities as follows:

  • Fitness and exercise centers and commercial gyms
  • Spas and public or commercial swimming pools
  • Group exercise facilities, to include yoga, barre, and spin studios or facilities
  • Spectator sports
  • Sports that involve interaction with another person in close proximity and within less than six (6) feet of another person
  • Activities that require the use of shared sporting apparatus and equipment
  • Activities on commercial or public playground equipment

Close-contact service providers as follows:

  • Barbershops
  • Hair salons
  • Waxing salons
  • Threading salons
  • Nail salons and spas
  • Body-art facilities and tattoo services
  • Tanning salons
  • Massage-therapy establishments and massage services

Clarification Assistance Provided by the South Carolina Department of Commerce

If a business has a question as to whether they qualify as essential, they should complete the Essential Business Clarification form located on the South Carolina Department of Commerce website, which will be easily accessible on the South Carolina Department of Commerce’s website. Questions can also be sent to covid19sc@sccommerce.com, or business representatives can call 803-734-2873.

A team from South Carolina Department of Commerce will review the business’s request for clarification, and the business will receive a response with their determination, essential or non-essential, within 24 hours.

If a business is not explicitly addressed in the governor’s executive order, the business should continue normal operations until a determination is made.