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This is how South Carolina will move forward on reopening the economy

South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster
South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster(WRDW)
Published: May. 29, 2020 at 4:31 AM EDT
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Friday, May 29, 2020

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) -- The task force focused on reopening South Carolina’s economy during the COVID-19 outbreak has met for what will likely be the last time.

Created by Gov. Henry McMaster in late April, accelerateSC has led to recommendations to reopen restaurants, tourist attractions, beaches, state offices and more.

They are the final recommendations from accelerateSC on how to safely reopen and help businesses and communities get back on their feet.

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“I think with the work this group has done and the experience we’ve had in all walks of life throughout the state, we should be well prepared for whatever comes back if it does come back. Earlier, it was commented on our approach. I think we took the right approach. You’ve heard me talk about the old carpenter’s rule, which is measure twice and cut once,” McMaster said after hearing the recommendations on Thursday.

James Burns, the chairman of accelerateSC, presented these recommendations that were broken down into four components: Response, Protection, Governance, and Resources. One of the main recommendations that Burns went over in the response component was the task force recommended the governor continue reopening in an incremental approach while providing continuing to provide specific guidance to businesses and venues such as restaurants, gyms, and tourist attractions on how to safely operate.

Burns also talked about how the biggest concern the task force heard from businesses is liability concerns stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic. The task force stressed that businesses need protections on the state and federal level and urged the General Assembly to pass legislation on this front. Also included in the recommendations were creating greater availability for childcare for parents trying to return to work and helping the tourism industry through advertising and other mechanisms.

For the protection component, the task force recommended continuing to follow social distancing protocols and recommendations from the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control. They also recommended taking extra precautions for at-risk populations. Further, they recommended that COVID-19 testing and contact tracing continue to be expanded throughout the state.

For the governance component, the task force recommended that a statewide PPE stockpile be created for law enforcement, hospitals, and first responders. They also recommended for lawmakers to request an opinion from the attorney general about whether local governments can have continuing resolutions to help local governments deal with budget shortfalls.

They also recommended that the governor try to have some form of leave forgiveness for those who were forced to take unpaid leave days because they couldn’t work remotely but also couldn’t go into the office.

Another recommendation in the governance component was a recommendation for helping with social distancing and prevention outbreaks in detention centers. The task force recommended that the state designate one detention center for individuals who have tested positive for the virus, to help stop any outbreaks within detention centers.

The final component of the recommendations that Burns outlined was the resource component. The task force outlined that the state has $1.9 billion allocated from the CARES Act, as well as other funds such as the governor’s emergency relief fund, that can be used and is reimbursable for certain expenditures. The task force recommended the procurement of a third-party manager to assist in validating expenditures and making sure they will be reimbursable.

As for enterprise initiatives, the task force recommended adding to the unemployment insurance trust fund to ensure that businesses don’t have taxes raised on them as they work to recover. Additionally, the task force recommended increasing broadband and creating a PPE statewide stockpile.

Lastly, the task force recommended funding for five additional school days for K-8th grade at the beginning of next school year, as well as 47 million for a four-week summer recovery program, and funding for meals for students.

In a press conference afterward, McMaster said he agreed with these recommendations. He added that plans to reopen such places as bowling alleys, movie theaters, performing arts venues, sporting events, and more are still in the works.

The entertainment venues and facilities are still closed and those include night clubs, bowling alleys, theaters, auditoriums, performing art centers, racetracks with spectators, and adult entertainment venues. AccelerateSC has provided entertainment venue and facility guidelines for those attractions, so we will be studying those and lifting those restrictions soon,” Governor McMaster said.

Governor McMaster stressed the importance of the unemployment insurance trust fund as well as the state PPE stockpile, saying that he’s worried we might see a second wave in the fall. He said this measure is important to be prepared if South Carolina does see a second wave.

McMaster said he is proud of the work of the task force and he stands by the steps he has taken to reopen the economy so far.

Thursday’s meeting comes one day after the largest one-day COVID-19 death toll reported in the state.

As of Thursday, a total of 470 people have died from the virus in South Carolina and 10,788 people have tested positive for it since the outbreak began.

Copyright 2020 WIS. All rights reserved.

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