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South Carolina restaurants could reopen by mid-May, group says

Outdoor dining could start as early as Monday, May 4.

COLUMBIA, S.C. — The head of a South Carolina restaurant trade group said South Carolina restaurants may be able to reopen in restaurant dining in a few weeks.

The remarks came during a meeting of South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster's task force designed to quickly and safely reopen the state. The “Response” component of AccelerateSC is the group met Wednesday. 

Lizard's Thicket CEO Bobby Williams Jr., who's on the task force and chairs the South Carolina Restaurant and Lodging Association, said outdoor dining could start as early as Monday, May 4.

Indoor dining could start two weeks later, if the the outdoor dining works well.However, the restaurants would be under strict social distancing guidelines and rules on sanitation. 

"We have to get sanitation supplies, PPE (personal protective equipment) and digital thermometers to monitor the health care of our employees," Williams said. "We need time between outdoor dining and reopening dining rooms to rehire, retrain and restock. We all want to reopen but not sacrificing the health of our employees or guest. If all goes well we could open indoor dining with selective seating by the week of May 18th." 

Another person at the meeting suggest the timeline could begin on May 11. In remarks made after the meeting, McMaster did not commit to a date, but said if they were to meet the May 4 deadline, they'd have to work fast. 

At the end of last week, the The South Carolina Restaurant and Lodging Association gave the governor some suggested guidelines for the reopening of the hospitality industry. Some of the ideas submitted were posting signage asking those with a fever or cough to not come in, installing touchless hand sanitizers at the door, putting a Plexiglas barrier at host stands and potentially changing to single use utensils or menus.

U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham and Senator Tim Scott are also taking part in the meeting toward the end and will join the governor for a news conference following the meeting. 

AccelerateSC is comprised of 5 components: Response, Protection, Governance, Resources, and Information.

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On Tuesday, the group discussed safety protocols for all citizens. Dr. Joan Duwve, South Carolina's Director of Public Health, said masking and testing are critically important. 

RELATED: South Carolina seeks to expand testing to those with mild virus symptoms

Dr. David Cole, president of the Medical University of South Carolina, said the need for more diagnostic and antibody testing is necessary to get a wider scope of how the virus spreads and how the state will be able reopen in the future.

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