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SC Governor to allow police to break up groups of 3, cases statewide rise to 298

This DOES NOT apply to families, law-abiding businesses, or grocery stores.

COLUMBIA, S.C. — South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster is giving law enforcement the ability to break up crowds of three or more people as the state tries to stop the spread of the coronavirus as cases continue to spike. But at this point, he's not ready to issue a shelter-in-place order, but he said that could change. 

McMaster spoke Monday about the state's response to the 2019 Novel Coronavirus. Here are some of the key highlights

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Latest Case Numbers: 

  • 5 deaths
  • 298 cases statewide
  • 103 new cases since last update
  • 2,239 total tests have been performed
  • 2,012 negative tests 

McMaster Orders Law Enforcement to Disperse Groups of 3 or More

McMaster said he's issued an executive order giving law enforcement the ability to disperse groups of three or more. This DOES NOT apply to families, law-abiding businesses, or grocery stores. It's more targeting a people holding parties at beaches or being unruly in crowds. 

He's leaving it to the discretion of law enforcement. "It's difficult to know the line but we know it when we see it,' he added. 

The governor says it’s similar to public nuisance statutes, but this is a misdemeanor. 

As for a shelter-in-place order, McMaster said he still doesn't think that's now but all options are on the table. "We're not ruling anything in, or out, and that includes shelter in place...that's a drastic action and we hope that will not be necessary." 

Governor urges social distancing

Dr. Linda Bell, the state epidemiologist, said that we've moved to the acceleration phase of the outbreak, which means they're focusing less on finding individual contacts of people who've contracted the illness and focusing more on stopping the spread.

She said some people may not have heeded the precautions to use social distancing and good hygiene tips because there were no cases in their community. 

McMaster said the best idea is to "all assume we have the virus and that the people we're talking to have the virus." 

State workers taking off: 

About half of state workers are working remotely from home, McMaster said. He's hoping he can get that number up to 75 percent.

School likely to be out for longer

State Education Superintendent Molly Spearman said the date for schools to return will likely be extended. Currently, the governor's previous order only cancelled class through the end of the month. 

Spearman said the federal government already granted a waiver that will get rid of testing requirements for students. The state is also working on a plan to address how students will advance to the next grade and what will happen to graduating seniors. 

What is the Coronavirus? 

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that cause respiratory infections ranging from the common cold to more serious diseases such as pneumonia. DHEC is working with CDC to identify all those who might have been in contact with these individuals. These people will be monitored for fever and respiratory symptoms.

People can help to prevent the spread of the virus in the following ways:

  • wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after using the bathroom, before eating, and after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing. If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. And, always wash your hands with soap and water if they are visibly dirty.
  • avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
  • stay home when you’re sick.
  • cough or sneeze into your elbow or use a tissue and put it in the trash immediately.
  • clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
  • get the influenza vaccine.

For general questions about COVID-19 residents should visit the DHEC website at scdhec.gov/COVID19 or the CDC website here.

For residents concerned about their own personal health or are showing symptoms such as fever, cough or shortness of breath, please call your personal doctor or healthcare provider. DHEC has launched its Care Line. If residents have general questions about COVID-19, the DHEC Care Line is here to help. Call 1-855-472-3432. Staff are answering calls from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Call volume has been high. Callers are urged to be patient if they receive a busy signal and try their call at a later time.

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