GOP Lawmakers Join Call For SC Stay At Home COVID-19 Order

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — Two Republicans in the South Carolina House have joined a growing call for Gov. Henry McMaster to issue a stay at home order to fight the coronavirus.

The letter from Reps. Neil Collins of Easley and Gary Clary of Clemson praises the governor for closing schools quickly on March 16.

But the lawmakers also said they are worried if further steps like closing gyms and day cares and all but essential stores aren’t taken soon, the number of COVID-19 cases will continue to rise.

“Knowing the infected today will overburden our hospitals in two weeks, we are requesting you act with urgency. Aggressive action will slow the growth and buy us precious time to prepare. It will return us to normalcy sooner,” Collins and Clary wrote.

In his last public appearance Monday, McMaster said he had not ruled out a shelter in place order or any other action, but he hasn’t issued that kind decree because “many South Carolinians are taking precautions that will render that unnecessary.”

Governors in neighboring North Carolina and Georgia also have not passed broad stay at home orders, but a number of local governments in those states have passed their own requirements.

South Carolina’s largest city joined the chorus Tuesday as Charleston passed a stay at home ordinance. Mayor John Tecklenburg said he worried the city might be running out of time to head off the virus before it overwhelms hospitals.

More than 340 COVID-19 cases have been reported in South Carolina with seven deaths, the state Department of Health and Environmental Control said in its daily update Tuesday.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death.

McMaster issued a statement Tuesday saying he will likely close schools because of the virus through the end of April. The lawmakers’ letter said he should go ahead and cancel classed until the end of the school year.

The letter from Collins and Clary also asks to postpone South Carolina’s primary elections scheduled for June 9 until August. Filing for the elections started March 16 and ends March 30. Legislative action would be needed to move the elections.

The letter said McMaster’s bold decision to close schools quickly was key to prevent things from getting worse.

“We know there was debate as to delaying the closure,” Clary and Collins wrote. “It will be forever unknown how many lives you saved by closing immediately — it slowed transmission allowing more preparation and was a wake-up call for many of our citizens.”