COLUMBIA, S.C. — South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster is heading to a restaurant just across the river from the Statehouse for a ceremonial signing Thursday of a bill preventing people with COVID-19 from suing businesses.
The new law protects businesses and other groups as long as they follow guidelines to protect people from the virus. Dozens of other states have passed similar measures.
The Republican governor made it a priority when the COVID-19 pandemic started 15 months ago. He signed the bill on April 28 after it passed the House 89-18 and the Senate 40-3.
McMaster plans to grab several pens and put his signature to paper at 2 p.m. at Café Strudel in West Columbia. The 24-year-old busy restaurant is less than 2 miles (3 kilometers) from the governor’s Statehouse office in a nearly century-old building.
Opponents of the bill said existing laws would work protect the businesses without changes and as of this spring there was just one lawsuit pending in state court where someone blames a business for their illness.
But the South Carolina Chamber of Commerce, the South Carolina Manufacturers Alliance and other business groups said the bill protects companies and others as they try to bounce back from the economic downturn caused by the pandemic.
As the House prepared to debate the bill, McMaster sent them a letter saying the state’s businesses “should not be placed at future risk for following the recommended safety protocols which allowed them to operate and employ people during the pandemic.”