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Theaters to remain closed, statewide mask ordinance not likely

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Updated: This story has been updated to remove a reference to limiting elective surgeries in S.C. hospitals.

As S.C. COVID-19 cases soared this past weekend, Gov. Henry McMaster confirmed that theaters, night clubs, concert halls and spectator sport venues will stay shuttered, but said a statewide mask mandate is not on the horizon.

“We have no plans to lift restrictions on these highly active groups and activities until we see that infection rate go down,” McMaster said June 26 as he issued a new declaration of emergency and exhorted people under 40 to remain mindful that they can be an asymptomatic vector for the virus.

McMaster emphasized that social distancing measures and hygiene was “deadly important” in helping stymie infection, especially as sectors of the state economy continue to reopen.

“We did not close as much as other states did,” McMaster said during Friday’s press conference. “We are still seeing progress in the reopening according to the guidelines from AccelerateSC.”

He verified that cities have the legal right to enforce ordinances on face coverings in limited circumstances, but added it was “ineffective, impractical” to implement a statewide mask mandate. An unenforceable mandate would only contribute to a false sense of security, the governor said.

Also on Friday, assisted living and nursing homes were also permitted to allow immediate family members of residents inside for limited visitation.

“We do know and we’ve known from the beginning — the predictions are coming true — not having loved ones making those visits, not having people go into the nursing homes of course has reduced the spread (of the virus) we believe, but it has also increased the feeling of isolation and mental emotional strain and other problems,” McMaster said.

McMaster said the state remains poised to deal with a surge in hospitalizations.  

Recorded COVID-19 cases reached 1,273 Friday, with an additional confirmed death. That single-day record was surpassed on Saturday, when 1,599 new confirmed cases, three new probable cases, 15 additional confirmed deaths and two additional probable deaths were reported by the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control. Sunday saw 1,366 new confirmed cases, four new probable cases and five additional confirmed deaths, bringing the state’s totals to 33,221 confirmed cases, 99 probable cases, 712 confirmed deaths and four probable deaths.

The 6,784 tests conducted Sunday had a percent positive rate of 20.1%, according to DHEC. Forty-seven mobile testing sites are scheduled throughout S.C. through July 30, and new testing events are added regularly.

Patients who have tested positive for or are under investigation for COVID-19 occupied 954 of the state’s hospital beds as of Sunday. DHEC said 3,025 inpatient hospital beds are available and 7,488 in use, a utilization rate of 71%.

“South Carolina is making national and international headlines, but not in the way we would like,” Dr. Dr. Joan Duwve, DHEC director of public health, said during the press conference. “Our state’s numbers have drastically increased over the past few weeks, making us one the hotspots in the country for COVID-19. The governors of six states, including New York, have announced that anyone traveling from their state from South Carolina will automatically have to quarantine for 14 days.”

Reach Molly Hulsey at 864-720-1223.

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