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See the latest news and updates about COVID-19 and its impact on the Charlotte region, the Carolinas and beyond.

SC Gov. McMaster Pleads For Help Slowing Coronavirus, Says Fall Sports Could Be In Jeopardy

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South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster and the state’s top health official pleaded with residents to wear masks and practice social distancing in an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus. The governor also warned residents they could face continued restrictions as the number of deaths and people hospitalized for COVID-19 symptoms reached new highs Wednesday.

The state reported 1,497 new coronavirus cases and 24 deaths attributed to the disease Wednesday as the percentage of people testing positive for COVID-19 was 19% -- a high rate that has remained steady for more than two weeks.

Wednesday marked the eighth straight day of more than 1,000 coronavirus cases confirmed by testing in South Carolina.

“Who would have ever imagined that we’d be having over 1,000 positives every day?” McMaster said at an afternoon press conference. “It just was unimaginable when we began. But here we are.”

McMaster urged local governments to take whatever actions they deemed necessary to protect their residents, including closing beaches as the Fourth of July holiday weekend approaches.

“The local authorities have the means at their disposal,” McMaster said.

But McMaster also continued to say that he does not have the constitutional authority to issue a statewide mandate on face masks.

“This is an easier thing to be done at a local level than it is at a statewide level,” McMaster said. “The consequences are if it’s too broad, and someone goes out of business or something, those who have issued the prohibition are responsible, financially or otherwise.”

State epidemiologist Linda Bell, however, said that masks have been proven to reduce the spread of the coronavirus – but stopped short of saying she would like McMaster to issue a statewide mandate.

“Well, what we’ve seen in other communities is that there’s abundant evidence that population-based measures where the use of masks and social distancing are effective, we have seen dramatic decreases in disease activity,” she said. “So we do now those are effective. So public health officials do support those.”

South Carolina was one of the first states to begin loosening restrictions on businesses and McMaster never issued a stay-at-home order, instead telling residents that they were “safer at home.” Among the restrictions still in place are those that are on large gatherings, including spectator sports.

“If these numbers continue to rise, if we continue to see this kind of danger going across our state, I will have no choice -- we will have no choice -- but to keep these restrictions on crowds and gatherings in place,” McMaster said. “And that means this fall will not be like other falls. We will not be able to have college football, we will not be able to have high school football. We won’t be able to have concerts, performing arts. We just won’t be able to do it.”

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