By Ted O’Neil
(The Center Square) – South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster said his stay-at-home order will become voluntary May 4, allowing many people to return to work as he continues attempts to reopen the state’s economy.
McMaster said people who are able to work from home are encouraged to do so and social distancing and other health guidelines remain in place.
South Carolina has 6,489 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 267 deaths. State health officials believe the rate of infection has plateaued.
“I’m very proud of the way that our people have responded to this emergency,” McMaster said at a news conference. “Our state has done very well, and we can depend on the common sense and the integrity, and the family nature of the people of South Carolina to do what we think is necessary.”
In reopening the state while attempting to prevent any spikes in new cases, South Carolina is looking to hire 1,500 people to work as contact tracers, who would track anyone who had been in recent contact with a newly diagnosed patient.
The state has about 230 people working in that capacity – up from the 20 people who were working in that capacity before the first case was reported March 6.
McMaster encouraged people to continue safe practices, such as wearing face coverings in public, and has given law enforcement permission to break up gatherings of more than three people.
“Mother’s Day is coming up,” McMaster said. “Your mama always told you to wash your hands and cover your nose and mouth if you cough. As long as we do those simple things and use common sense, we ought to be just fine.”
McMaster also lifted his order requiring anyone traveling to South Carolina from elsewhere to self-quarantine for 14 days, including from hot spots such as New York.
Hotels and other vacation rentals can begin taking new reservations, and restaurants can begin serving customers in outdoor dining areas. Tables must be eight feet apart with seating limited to eight people and have to be sanitized after each use.
The South Carolina National Guard will assign about 30 troops to help monitor and prevent the spread of coronavirus at three state prisons.
More than 1,600 inmates will be checked twice a day, including temperature, pulse and other symptoms. Prisoners who test positive are being isolated and their cellmates checked more frequently. The facilities are on lockdown after nine inmates and 43 staff members tested positive in April.