(The Center Square) – Gov. Henry McMaster is facing more scrutiny over how he went about reopening the state’s economy after South Carolina reported 1,081 new positive coronavirus tests Friday.
That number set a single-day record for the state, eclipsing the 987 new cases reported Thursday. It was the fourth time in a week that the state set a new single-day record.
To date, there have been 22,608 positive cases statewide with 639 deaths. That includes an additional 18 deaths reported Friday, the highest one-day figure since the virus was first detected in South Carolina in March. In addition, Friday saw 16 percent of all tests administered come back positive, the most thus far in one day.
New details also emerged Friday that McMaster did not take the advice of state health officials regarding the timeline to reopen the state’s economy.
The governor last month issued an executive order that allowed restaurants to offer limited indoor dining beginning May 11. The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control, however, had suggested May 18. Until May 11, restaurants had been limited to offering pick-up, delivery or drive-through services only for more than a month. McMaster did put occupancy restrictions and other guidelines in place when restaurants were allowed to resume in-person dining.
State health officials proposed when restaurants did resume inside dining they be limited to 25 percent capacity with tables of no more than six people. McMaster chose to allow 50 percent capacity with tables seating up to eight people.
The DHEC also recommended McMaster wait two weeks after restaurants reopened before allowing “close personal contact” businesses such as hair and nail salons and barber shops to open. Health officials said the two-week window would have given the state more time to assess any impact restaurants might have had on increased transmission of the disease.
McMaster instead chose to allow those businesses to reopen one week later.
The governor began reopening the state’s economy on May 1 by lifting his “home or work” order and slowly allowed other sectors to resume operations over the course of the month, allowing things like tourist attractions and amusement parks to open just ahead of the busy Memorial Day weekend.
McMasters’ office told media Friday DHEC officials were present with the governor at every press conference he held throughout May to announce his decisions and did not raise any objections at the time.