SC Lifts Pandemic Limits On Alcohol Sales, Mass Gatherings
COLUMBIA, S.C. — South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster is lifting state pandemic restrictions on mass gatherings and alcohol sales, his office announced Friday.
Starting Monday, restaurants and bars will be able to sell alcohol after 11 p.m. again, and event organizers will no longer have to secure permits for groups of more than 250 people. McMaster is removing the safety measures as coronavirus cases in the state have dropped in recent weeks, he said.
“With the spread of the virus consistently decreasing across the country and more of the most vulnerable South Carolinians being vaccinated every day, I believe these targeted and limited safety measures are no longer necessary,” McMaster said in a statement. “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.”
McMaster instituted the late-night booze ban in July, attempting to squelch the spread of the virus among young adults. The governor loosened restrictions on mass gatherings in August, allowing event organizers to apply for exemptions for groups of more than 250 through the Department of Commerce.
State health officials said Friday that people should still practice social distancing and wear face coverings, along with taking other safety precautions.
Over the last two weeks, recorded coronavirus cases have dropped by more than 26%, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. But the state still ranks second in the country for new cases per capita, with 693.5 new cases per 100,000 people over the past two weeks.
On Friday, State Epidemiologist Dr. Linda Bell warned that if people perceive the virus as no longer a threat, they could stop following public health guidelines and drive cases up again.
“Every time we experience a downward trend, we have the tendency to go up again when we do not follow those preventative measures,” Bell told reporters Friday.
McMaster has gradually lifted statewide virus restrictions since shutting down businesses last spring, insisting that such drastic measures would damage the economy and people's livelihoods. He never instituted a statewide mask mandate, and he last removed restrictions limiting restaurant capacity in October.
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Liu is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.