South Carolina will allow dine-in service at restaurants beginning Monday, limiting the number of people to 50% of the building capacity and still enforcing social distancing measures that require tables to be spaced 6-8 feet apart.
The gradual opening of restaurants is Phase 2 of a reopening plan, Gov. Henry McMaster said Friday. Phase 1 included allowing outdoor dining at restaurants, which started this week. McMaster said Phase 3 "possibly" includes a full reopening of restaurants.
Restaurants are also advised to follow additional sanitation procedures, including removing condiments from tables, offering hand sanitizer at entrances and offering additional guidance for health checks for all employees.
“This doesn’t mean that everyone has to open,” McMaster said. “This means that those who want to can open.”
McMaster said he anticipates an announcement Monday about the opening of “close personal service” businesses such as hair and nail salons and gyms.
“The people who are out of work, we understand the hardships that these rules and policies require, but it’s (the coronavirus) all over the country,” McMaster said. “Not only our country, but all over the world. We are trying to do the best we can to see that the people of South Carolina suffer as little as possible.”
Both McMaster and state epidemiologist Linda Bell said they were confident allowing the reopening of businesses because of recent test results. Friday’s data showed 238 new cases of the coronavirus and four additional deaths, bringing the total numbers in the state to 7,367 cases and 320 deaths.
“We’ve seen a flattening of the curve for a relatively short period of time, and what we’re hoping is that flattening will remain,” Bell said.
South Carolina's announcement comes on the same day that North Carolina began Phase 1 of its reopen plan, which included an easing of restrictions on "nonessential" businesses. Gov. Roy Cooper still urged caution at an afternoon press conference.
"And I urge everyone to do what we know works and to stay vigilant," Cooper said. "Know that the stay-at-home order is still in effect. It’s still better to stay at home if you can."
Asked if he felt the state was ready to reopen, Cooper said it was the right move to help the economy as residents are able to visit more businesses.
"We think this is a prudent, careful, cautious step that we should make," Cooper said. "And we’re going to continue to rely on the evidence and the data in order to make decisions about when we go into Phase 2."
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