Henry McMaster, South Carolina governor, adds criminal penalties, fines to coronavirus orders

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Henry McMaster, South Carolina governor, adds criminal penalties, fines to coronavirus orders


COLUMBIA, S.C. — South Carolina’s governor issued Monday what he called a work-to-home order adding fines and possible jail time to keep residents away from each other and from catching the coronavirus.

The new order attaches potential criminal penalties to the more than a dozen orders and recommendations he has made since COVID-19 was first detected in South Carolina on March 6.

The order allows people to go to work, essential businesses like grocery stores and pharmacies and visit family. Otherwise, someone out and about could face a misdemeanor charge with a $100 fine or 30 days in jail, Gov. Henry McMaster said.

The new order doesn’t change to or add to the additional categories of businesses that governor ordered closed as of 5 p.m. Monday. Those included jewelry stores, book stores, department stores and flea markets.

McMaster has already closed dine-in restaurants, bars, beaches, lakes, nail salons, gyms, barber shops and a wide array of other businesses. Even though the list of actions seems similar or in some ways more restrictive than other states with so-called “stay at home” orders, the Republican has steadfastly refused to give his executive orders that name.



Also on Monday, the state National Guard announced they are planning to add 3,000 hospital beds in the next month to the 6,000 beds currently available in hospitals around the state by using closed medical facilities, arenas and tents. Hospital officials said they think that will be enough beds to handle an expected surge in COVID-19 cases.

South Carolina reported more than 2,230 COVID-19 cases statewide as of Sunday afternoon, with at least one case reported in every county. Four more people died, bringing the death toll in the state from the virus to 48, the Department of Health and Environmental Control said in Monday’s update.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.

The governor’s latest order came as an inmate in a local jail in South Carolina tested positive for COVID-19, leading officials to isolate the nearly three dozen inmates in his housing unit.

The inmate was initially screened for the coronavirus on March 30 with no issues, but started to show symptoms Friday and was isolated and tested, with the positive result coming back on Sunday, the sheriff’s office said in a statement.

Temperature checks of all incoming inmates and employees as they come to work will continue, deputies said.

The inmate in the Charleston County jail appears to be the first inmate to test positive for coronavirus in the state.

No state prisoners have tested positive, although at least 19 Corrections Department employees have been infected, according to the agency.

Several police officers across the state also have COVID-19, including Pageland Police Chief Craig Greenlee, who isolated himself on March 27 when he noticed he had symptoms and learned he tested positive Saturday, according to the town’s Facebook page.

Other officers and officials are now also isolating themselves, and Chesterfield County deputies are helping patrol Pageland, town officials said.

The coronavirus also prompted the Forestry Commission to ban all outdoor burning until further notice. That includes campfires and fires set to get rid of yard debris.

The ban, which starts Tuesday in all unincorporated areas of the state, is needed because smoke can cause symptoms similar to COVID-19 and make respiratory problems worse in people already infected.

Burning debris is critical to slowing wildfires and clearing land for farmers, “but extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures, and the decision to enact this ban really had to be made in the current context,” Forestry Commission Fire Chief Darryl Jones said in a statement.

The governor also urged all members of the General Assembly to return to a planned meeting for one day Wednesday to allow the Legislature to meet after the May 14 scheduled adjournment and let the state continue to spend money if a new budget is not passed by July 1.

“We have cashiers going to work. We have police officers going to work. We have all types of people coming to work,” McMaster said. “There is no excuse for the General Assembly not to come to work on Wednesday.”

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Follow Jeffrey Collins on Twitter at https://twitter.com/JSCollinsAP.

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Follow AP coverage of the virus outbreak at https://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak.

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