COLUMBIA, S.C. — South Carolina restaurants will soon carry a sticker that's designed to allow the public to know if they're following coronavirus safety guidelines.
South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster announced the Palmetto Priority Seal at a news conference Tuesday afternoon.
Here's how the program will work. A restaurant will have to pass a virtual state health department safety check. They'll also have a checklist of requirements, including mandating masks for employees, additional training for those employees, sanitation procedures on tables, and ways to make menus safer.
If they meet all the requirements, they'll get the decal on the outside of their restaurant.
How will it be enforced? McMaster is hoping that the public becomes a watchdog. People can go to PalmettoPriority.com and lodge a complaint if they see a restaurant that isn't complying. The complain will be handled by the state's lodging association, which will reach out to the restaurant to get them to comply.
After more than three complaints, the restaurant loses the seal. It does not have to shut down.
McMaster hopes people avoiding restaurants that lack the seal will cause the businesses to fall in line with guidelines.
"If it doesn't have this seal, go somewhere else," he said. "That's what i'm going to do. And that's what you should do."
The news comes as coronavirus cases are spiking in the state. Dr. Linda Bell with DHEC said 42 percent of all confirmed coronavirus cases have come in the last two weeks. She said most of those new cases are young people with mild symptoms.
McMaster is still hesitant to put a statewide masking order in effect, but said he's concerned because many in the state are following the social distancing and face mask requirements.
"We must be very careful," he added.
Restaurants in the state were never forced to shut down during the pandemic, but were told to move to take-out and drive-thru service only. That lasted from late March until early May.
In early May, eating outdoors was allowed first, and about a week later, indoor dining was permitted with the following restrictions.
- Only allow 50% of posted occupancy inside, as determined by fire marshals
- Tables should be spaced 6-8 feet apart
- Additional cleaning and sanitizing guidelines for equipment, tables, chairs, etc.
- Additional guidance for health checks for all employees
- Social distancing guidance for employees and customers, including recommended
The full list of regulations can be found here.