Gyms, barbers to reopen in SC; 1,800 contact tracers hired
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — South Carolina moved closer to fully reopening its economy on Monday as restaurants reopened with restrictions and the state’s governor announced that public pools as well as gyms, salons, barbershops and other close contact businesses can resume operation next week.
Schools will remain closed and other mass gatherings will still be prohibited as the coronavirus pandemic continues, Gov. Henry McMaster said.
“You have to be your own doctor. You have to take care of yourself,” McMaster said when asked whether people should be wearing masks or exercise caution about eating out or going to the salon.
Also Monday, health officials said they had retained 1,800 contact tracers, 400 of whom will work under the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control and 1,400 of whom will work for private staffing companies.
Contact tracers are a critical part of fighting the virus. They try to find all close contacts of anyone infected by COVID-19 so that those people can isolate themselves or be tested for the virus.
Dine-in restaurants reopened Monday with reduced seating and strict sanitation rules. They are limited to eight customers per table and tables must be 8 feet (2.4 meters) apart. Chairs and tables must be sanitized after each customer. Condiments such as ketchup or steak sauce are provided only on request and sanitized after each use.
Monday’s announcement to allow so-called close contact businesses and public pools to reopen on May 18 appears to be the last reopening step for a while. Schools are closed for the rest of this academic year and health experts have given no indication whether large groups will be able to gather for concerts or plays before the summer. It is still up in the air whether football will be allowed to resume in the fall, although universities appear to be trying to figure out a way to play.
State Epidemiologist Linda Bell said it isn’t her agency’s job to tell businesses when they can open or tell people what they can or can’t do.
“We can provide the guidance for them to do that as safely as possible,” Bell said at Monday’s news conference with the governor.
Also Monday, Department of Administration Executive Director Marcia Adams said she is working on a plan to have individual state agency leaders determine when employees working from home can return to offices.
Under the first phase of a three-step plan, Adams wants to have employees whose jobs need to be done in the office back by June 11. Those would include managers and people who do clerical work or answer phones, among other jobs, Adams said.
“Those employees who are successfully and easily working from home can continue to do that,” Adams said.
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