‘Stand up and lead’: State senator pushes for McMaster to ban large gatherings during COVID-19

‘Stand up and lead’: State senator pushes for McMaster to ban large gatherings during COVID-19

MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WMBF) - One South Carolina state senator is calling on the governor and state health officials to put a stop to large-scale events because of people not following the social distancing guidelines.

State Sen. Richard Harpootlian said not enough enforcement is being done to prevent large scale events that would make social distancing hard to follow. He added that more needs to be done to enforce consequences on businesses and organizers not adhering to the DHEC and CDC guidelines.

A few days ago, Harpootlian wrote a letter to Gov. Henry McMaster and DHEC where he included pictures of hundreds of people gathering outside of a bar last weekend in Murrells Inlet, during a Spring Bike Rally event. In the letter, he expressed concerns about the lack of social distancing.

READ | Letter from state Sen. Richard Harpootlian to Gov. Henry McMaster

Harpootlian said DHEC should use its authority under the “Emergency Health Powers Act” which he said allows them to shut down events that are considered a public health hazard.

“The idea that several hundred people, elbow to elbow, drinking and breathing on one another is not going to create a health hazard is simply folly,” Harpootlian said.

He’s calling on McMaster to lead this effort, and prevent all counties from allowing gatherings that would be considered a health risk during the pandemic, so the “closing down businesses” history doesn’t repeat itself.

“Governor, standup up and lead, please,” Harpootlian said. “We need you to do that. You need to let people know, if they do these type of events, there’s a chance that they have to shut down and not reopen.”

But not everyone is in support of closing down businesses during the pandemic.

Mark Holshouser, who manages the “Reopen South Carolina Facebook page,” supports keeping businesses up and running during the pandemic. Holshouser is 100% against Governor McMaster putting any additional restrictions on businesses or events.

“I think that would be the absolute worst thing the governor could do,” Holshouser said. “It should be an individual choice.”

Holshouser said the state has come a long way getting businesses back up and running again and closing down any establishment trying to make a profit during this pandemic, could come at a high cost.

“If they start going back to restrictions, you’re going to start losing more businesses,” Holshouser said. “I don’t think our economy can handle it.”

“I would say they’re right,” Senator Harpootlian said. “If we shut down it’s going to be a major catastrophe. That’s why I’m suggesting this tiny little baby step.”

The communication office for McMaster released this statement to WMBF News regarding businesses or organizers holding large scale events:

“Anyone participating in a gathering of any size are strongly encouraged to practice all social distancing guidelines and follow the advice and recommendations of our public health officials – including wearing a face covering.

But concert venues are expressly prohibited opening in the governor’s orders because we all know that social distancing is nearly impossible in those situations.”

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