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Last rollback of business restrictions expected soon

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Following the release of AccelerateSC’s final report, Lt. Gov. Pamela Evette noted that the last business restrictions in deference to the coronavirus pandemic will be lifted soon — maybe even this week.

“We have one last sector to open up. As the governor said, our official work is done — he put that task force in place for 30 days — but he will still call on everybody that was in that group as things happen and things start to unfold and come about. And we’re going to cross our fingers that we don’t have any spikes,” Evette said, adding that the state plans to have a treatment protocol in place by midsummer.

Pamela Evette addresses First Monday forum at Greenville's Poinsett Club. (Photo/Molly Hulsey)Entertainment and recreational venues were shuttered by Gov. Henry McMaster’s executive order on March 31 and remain closed. Restrictions on attractions including zoos, aquariums, water parks and go-cart tracks were lifted May 22, while nightclubs, bowling alleys, theaters, adult entertainment venues and some spectator sports remain closed.

As businesses continue to reopen across the state, May 27’s death toll was 20 people — the highest per-day spike so far — and May 30 marked the highest reported number of new cases in any day at 420. According to S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control data from Tuesday, Greenville County has seen the most positive reported COVID-19 cases in the state at 1,751 people. Charleston had 646, and Richland County had 1,542.

Evette reiterated that AccelerateSC’s website would continue to function as a resource for businesses from all sectors seeking to adhere to the task force’s public health guidelines.

The task force’s final report (.pdf), released May 28, is posted on the website, which also serves as platform to connect business owners with ombudsmen who are available to answer live calls and COVID-19-related questions.

“If they have very specific questions, they can be answered,” she said, adding that the S.C. Department of Commerce also has fielded numerous queries during the pandemic.

AccelerateSC’s final report calls for the continued promotion of public-private partnerships to help businesses obtain personal protective equipment, the guided reopening of child care facilities, additional tourism funding and the legal protection of businesses that have followed the guidelines — especially as 800 COVID-19-related lawsuits were filed across the country by early May.

The report includes statewide COVID-19 spending, projected COVID-19 spending and allocations for South Carolina’s Coronavirus Relief Fund. So far, county, municipality and state agency expenditures total almost $300 million, climbing to a projected $630 million by the end of the year. The largest current expenditures include $72 million used for fee refunds, $41 million directed toward payroll costs and $21.03 million allocated for personal protective equipment.

Roughly $130 million will be spent on response efforts through Dec. 30, according to the budget projection. Funding has also been set aside for hospital reimbursement, a state PPE stockpile and $80 million worth of broadband infrastructure projects, among others.

“The governor did everything in his power to ease the burden of small business where he could in the state,” Evette said when asked about resources for small businesses pummeled by the shutdown and now, property damage from riots. She said funds from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act could help.

“That money was meant to be distributed to our municipalities and our businesses, and it needs to be swift, because those are the people that are hurting and need it,” she said.

Reach Molly Hulsey at 864-720-1223.

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