Spokesperson: Letter from McMaster does not mean S.C. businesses will stay closed to late June

Updated: Apr. 16, 2020 at 4:43 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WMBF) – South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster is hopeful that businesses and activities in the state can resume by late June after the expected peak of COVID-19 cases in May, according to a letter sent to the leaders of the General Assembly.

Brian Symmes, spokesperson for the governor’s office, said via email, however, that the reference to late June was simply a suggestion as to when McMaster could call the General Assembly back into session.

“The fact that he believes it will be safe for the General Assembly to return in late June, and that businesses will be open by then, does not in any way mean they won’t open before then,” Symmes said.

The spokesperson added that, “businesses will be re-opened long before late June, but not before it is safe for South Carolinians.”

McMaster’s letter offered a “solution that will prevent a state government shutdown while protecting the health and safety of the members of the General Assembly and their staff.”

McMaster notes that the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control projects that the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases and fatalities in the state will peak around May 1 and then start a gradual decline.

The governor warns that returning for session before May 14 could place the health and safety of legislatures “at an elevated risk for exposure to the virus.”

“However, I believe – and hope – that by late June that risk will have diminished to the extent that businesses and activities in our state may be safely resumed and conducted using personal safety precautions,” McMaster wrote.

He noted he will call the General Assembly into session before the end of the fiscal year, and left it up to the leaders of the General Assembly to choose a date and time. The purpose of the session will be to pass a continuing resolution for the operation of state government.

“I look forward to working together to accelerate South Carolina’s economic restart,” McMaster wrote.

During a news conference Thursday, McMaster said he will announce “Accelerate South Carolina,” an initiative to get the state’s economy up and running.

He said the initiative will put together a group consisting of representatives from manufacturing, tourism, hospitality, and agribusiness industries, among others, to come up with the best practices to get businesses “humming again.”

“We are going to find the best ways to do it quickly and safely,” McMaster said.

The governor said he anticipates some businesses will reopen by May 1, but it will not be “across the board.”

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