McMaster issues order for law enforcement to disperse crowds of 3 or more

Coronavirus: Flattening the curve

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WMBF) – South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster provided an update Monday afternoon on the state’s response to the novel coronavirus outbreak.

McMaster issued another executive order that authorizes law enforcement to prohibit or disperse any gatherings of people of three or more if law enforcement deems it to be a threat to public health.

The governor said this would apply to gatherings such as people on the beach, music events and gatherings in parking lots. He said the order is similar to a public nuisance statute and would result in a misdemeanor.

“This weekend, we saw large crowds gathered on beaches, on sandbars, and in parking lots. 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," McMaster said.

The governor said this executive order does not apply to law-abiding businesses or employers.

“It does not apply to private businesses nor to responsible South Carolinians continuing to make the best out of this situation. 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," McMaster said.

McMaster also addressed the possibility of a shelter in place which would order everyone to stay at home. He said that this has not been issued and it would be a drastic action, but he added that officials are not ruling anything out at this point.

He said if South Carolinians continue to take precautions, wash their hands and social distance, then there won’t be a need to take such drastic measures.

During the news conference, the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control announced there are 298 confirmed cases statewide.

Here is a breakdown of the number of cases in the Grand Strand and the Pee Dee:

  • Horry County: 16 cases
  • Darlington County: 7 cases
  • Florence County: 3 cases
  • Georgetown County: 2 cases
  • Dillon County: 1 case

There have so far been five COVID-19-related deaths in S.C. as of Monday. One of them was an elderly person with an underlying health condition from Florence County.

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