COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Ahead of the Fourth of July holiday, the Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) is urging people to stay at home.
However, Duane Parrish, the director of Tourism, Parks, and Recreation in South Carolina thinks the state’s coasts will look like they did over Memorial Day weekend in a couple days.
That holiday weekend was one state epidemiologist Dr. Linda Bell has noted preceded increasing trends in COVID-19 cases in our state.
“I think we will obviously be down in business from last year, first and foremost,” Parrish said. “Having said that, I think it will, in some respects -- it will mirror Memorial Day. But with the cabin fever of people being in lock down for a couple months [and] the time of year of July Fourth is busy anyway, I still think we will see a lot of business activity, or a lot of tourism, take place across the state, particularly around the coast.”
Parrish has seen the evidence of people’s restlessness first hand, and said state parks are experiencing some of their busiest months to date recently. He says people’s need to be outdoors and his concern for South Carolina’s economy contribute to his strong belief that the state needs to stay open.
He isn’t dissuading people from going to the beach, traveling for the holiday weekend, or going to restaurants.
South Carolina tourism’s slogan right now is, “When you’re ready, we’re ready,” and he says that means those who feel comfortable going out should be able to do so as long as they are responsible.
“I think stay home is if you’re not comfortable going somewhere, if you’re not feeling well or if you’re in a highly infected category of older people...or someone with health conditions -- yes, stay home,” Parrish said. “But if you feel comfortable and you’re healthy -- go. But stay smart, wear a mask. But commerce has to continue. The state has to stay open.”
In fact, Parrish believes South Carolinians have become more educated about the virus in the past few weeks, and believes that will be reflected in how they'll act this weekend.
“People are more aware of social distancing now than they were from Memorial Day weekend,” he said. “So, I think people are being more careful. It’s not everyone, there’s always bad apples, but on the whole I think there are a lot more people paying attention to the virus now.”
This weekend he said the majority of tourists and visitors to the coast will all come from cities that are in driving distance. He said he's seen hotel and resort parking lots filled with visitors from places as close as Columbia to as far as Atlanta and Raleigh.
Parrish also noted that even if the coast appears busy this weekend, it doesn't necessarily mean business is booming or the economy has fully recovered.
“What today looks crowded, a year ago wouldn’t look crowded,” he said.