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Q&A: What's open and what's still banned in SC after latest coronavirus changes

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Kendall Lunsford (left) and Kristin Gerald stop by El Jefe Texican Cantina for a meal inside Monday, May 11, 2020, in Charleston. Monday was the first time restaurant were allowed to have diners inside since they were closed to prevent the spread of the coronavirus two months ago. Gavin McIntyre/Staff

New week. New rules. 

Just as quickly as South Carolina shut down businesses and activities to stem the spread of the coronavirus, Gov. Henry McMaster is lifting restrictions. 

Here is the latest information about what’s allowed and what’s still banned, plus why S.C. leaders are comfortable with reopening the state.

What restrictions have been lifted?

The following ban ends Monday:

Close-contact businesses, including gyms, hair stylists, tanning and nail salons. 

The governor lifted stay-at-home restrictions and ended bans on:

Dining at restaurants (both indoors and outdoors).

Public boat ramps, as well as limitations on boating.

Public beach/waterfront accesses.

Retailers, including furniture, jewelry, shoe, book and department stores, florists and flea markets.

Hotel and short-term rentals by residents of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, as well as 14-day quarantine for visitors from those states.

What bans and closures remain in effect?

Gatherings of three or more that threaten public health.

Stadiums, auditoriums, movie theaters, tourist attractions, playgrounds and bowling alleys.

Gatherings of 50 or more at publicly owned sites.

When will South Carolina lift the other restrictions?

McMaster has not given any dates but says he will do it as soon as possible.

When will nonessential state employees return to work?

The best of health, hospital and science coverage in South Carolina, delivered to your inbox weekly.

More than 55,000 state employees working from home or on leave will return gradually as masks and other personal protection equipment becomes available at state agencies.

The first wave of workers will return by June 1. There is no deadline for the rest.

More than 19,000 state employees still were coming to work.

Why do South Carolina leaders believe it is OK to reopen business in the state?

The governor has said more South Carolinians are following restrictions and social distancing rules based on reports from law enforcement and state traffic data.

Businesses also are responsible for distancing practices, which should help limit contact among people, government leaders say. The state has not strained medical resources, especially after a recommended halt to elective surgery, and now has plans for more tests and contact tracing. 

South Carolina's case numbers have plateaued over the past three weeks. The S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control has said social distancing helped curb the spread of the virus.

Still, top scientists have stressed they would like to see two weeks of falling case numbers before feeling comfortable with mass gatherings.

McMaster wants to restart an economy after more than 450,000 South Carolinians have filed jobless claims over nearly two months.

Don't White House guidelines suggest two weeks of declining case numbers in a state before reopening businesses?

Yes, but President Donald Trump has said states are free to make their own decisions based on their circumstances. McMaster has insisted he is opening the state carefully. And South Carolina health officials have backed his reopening decisions.

Why is South Carolina ranking at or near the bottom in the country in testing per capita?

The lack of testing comes from a national supply shortage that led South Carolina and other states to prioritize testing people who were more sick, as well as health care workers and first responders, state epidemiologist Linda Bell said.

The state did not have the ability to get tests to poorer rural areas with limited access to health care providers. Also, in other states similarly reserving tests, which include the national hot spots of New Orleans and New York, there were far more sick people to test than in South Carolina, which ranks in the bottom third of the nation in cases per capita, she added.

South Carolina has plans to ramp up testing. The goal is to test 110,000 people, roughly 2 percent of the population, each month starting with May. The state has tested 93,000 people since the outbreak began in March.

Do people have to wear a mask?

There is no state requirement to wear masks, though medical professionals recommend them for activities where people will be in close contact, such as while shopping.

Will students return to school next fall?

South Carolina's K-12 schools are still working on plans but have not announced what will happen. They could include limiting the number of students at schools each day.

Colleges have plans to resume classes in the fall but are still working out logistics.

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