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Columbia Business Monthly

Governor orders police to disperse gatherings of three people or more outside of homes, work

Mar 23, 2020 01:26PM ● By David Dykes
Gov. Henry McMaster issued an executive order Monday, March 23, directing police to disperse or prohibit gatherings of three people or more outside of homes or businesses.

The law is aimed at large crowds and enforcement will be at the discretion of police officers, he said.

Violations are misdemeanors under state law, the governor said.

"This weekend, we saw large crowds gathered on beaches, on sandbars, and in parking lots," McMaster said. "We are facing a dangerous and deadly enemy and this type of behavior is both irresponsible and selfish. Law enforcement asked for clarification as to how this existing law applies during this state of emergency.

"I have included it in an executive order to make it clear that law enforcement has the ability to disperse groups of people who pose a risk to the public's safety and to the safety of others."

The governor said his order doesn't apply to private businesses "nor to responsible South Carolinians continuing to make the best out of this situation.

"And as I said, this is not a shelter-in-place order but another measure aimed at containing the virus by controlling crowds, so that we do not have to shelter in place."

On Saturday, the governor took additional actions to enhance the state’s response to COVID-19’s continued impact to South Carolina.

“Team South Carolina is constantly reviewing the COVID 19 situation, and all plans and contingencies to contain this virus remain on the table,” McMaster said. “That includes "shelter-in-place," a drastic action that other states with larger population centers have taken. It is my hope that this will not be necessary here, and I believe it to be much less likely, as long as South Carolinians follow official instructions and take recommended precautions now.”

The governor has asked construction contractors and others in the skilled trade industry to donate whatever personal protective equipment they can spare to healthcare professionals and state agencies in the greatest need, including respirator masks commonly used in construction settings. Those willing to make donations can contact Mary Louise Resch of Habitat for Humanity for logistical coordination via email at mlresch@habitatsc.org

The governor has also issued an executive order directing the Department of Revenue to waive additional regulations in order to allow restaurants to include sealed containers of beer and wine for curbside pickup or “to-go” orders only. This waiver does not authorize or apply to open containers or delivery services. 

The governor also directed the Department of Revenue to conform the state’s income tax deadline to July 15th, which is the new federal income tax deadline.  Other state taxes will remain delayed until June 1st, as previously ordered.


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