South Carolina governor easing COVID-19 restrictions on bars, gatherings

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South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster removes his mask while speaking during a COVID-19 briefing on Wednesday, July 29, 2020, in West Columbia, S.C. As of Monday, McMaster says all businesses will be allowed to be open, as long as they adhere to social distancing and capacity limits. (AP Photo/Meg Kinnard)

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WSAV) – South Carolina’s governor is easing some COVID-19 safety restrictions for bars and large gatherings, effective Monday.

Gov. Henry McMaster issued a “last call” order in July 2020 blocking alcohol sales at bars after 11 p.m. to discourage young adults from congregating.

He says with the virus’ spread decreasing and vaccinations increasing, the measure is no longer needed.

“The virus is still among us and we all must continue to make responsible decisions to take care of ourselves and our loved ones, but those decisions are for South Carolinians to make,” he added.

In addition, he’s lifting a mandate requiring the South Carolina Department of Commerce to approve events involving more than 250 people. Still, organizers are encouraged to follow the previous guidelines:

  • Limit attendance of large gatherings to either 50% of the event space’s posted occupancy limit or fewer than 250 people
  • All employees, customers, patrons, suppliers, vendors, visitors or other people in attendance at a large gathering should wear a face covering
  • Organizers, operators, owners, or hosts of a large gathering shall take reasonable steps to incorporate, implement, comply with, and adhere to any relevant sanitation, “social distancing,” and hygiene guidelines established by the CDC, DHEC, or any other state or federal public health officials

And events previously approved by the commerce department that have not taken place yet are encouraged to follow the same guidelines.

“Many South Carolinians have done their part by practicing the prevention measures we know work,” South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control Director Dr. Edward Simmer stated. “We are here today because of our citizens’ careful and ongoing efforts and we thank you for taking care of each other and putting your community and people first.”

COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations have been steadily decreasing in South Carolina following the holiday-related spikes.

“I urge you to continue wearing a mask, staying 6 feet apart, staying home and away from others if you’re sick and when it’s your time, get a safe and effective vaccine,” said Simmer. “Working together, we will defeat COVID-19.”

Meanwhile, the head of the Centers for Disease and Prevention said Friday that “now is not the time to relax restrictions,” as virus variants emerge.

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