Jul 10, 2020
SC Governor Henry McMaster COVID-19 Press Conference July 10
South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster held a coronavirus news briefing on July 10. He announced no alcohol sales at bars and restaurants in SC after 11 p.m. to slow the spread among young people. Read his full briefing speech transcript here.
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Governor McMaster: (00:01)
Y’all thank you for coming. We have signing today, Leslie [Clepack 00:00:05] and assistant Larissa Martin. We appreciate you being here. We have some others, Dr. Duwve of DHEC will speak. Dr. Hartley Powell, director Dr. Hartley Powell of Department of Revenue and Duane Parrish, Director of Parks, Recreation and Tourism. And this concerns another executive order that we call the last call executive order to help reduce the rapid transmission of coronavirus, particularly among young adults congregating in bars and restaurants at night. This executive order will prohibit the sale of alcoholic beverages at all South Carolina restaurants and bars after 11:00 PM, starting tomorrow night, Saturday. After 11:00 PM tomorrow night, no sale of alcoholic beverages in bars and restaurants. Many of the young people in our state as well as around the country seem not to be taking the virus as seriously as they should and we hope that this will help all of us, particularly the younger generations, to realize just how serious this virus is and how much is at stake if we don’t see these infection rates start dropping.
Governor McMaster: (01:20)
The suffering and the economic damage are not all that are inflicted by the virus. We also have mental consequences. We have emotional consequences. We have educational consequences and they’re all tied up together and it is enormous damage. Excuse me, that’s being done inflicted in our state because of this despite our best efforts.
Governor McMaster: (01:44)
Businesses, livelihoods, and educations have suffered. Children have lost valuable learning time. The memories of things in school, their friends, and the routines due to the closure of our schools. The Department of Education has made a herculean and extraordinary efforts successful to see that all the children are fed. But as you know, as a result of being out of school, a lot of the students have been lost to communication, and this is just an example, and when the children have to stay home, that means some of the parents can’t go to work.
Governor McMaster: (02:21)
And ladies and gentlemen, South Carolina’s business is business. We must go to work. We must stay working. If we can’t work, then we cannot survive as a prosperous state. Our elderly residents are particularly at risk. And we are concerned about the spread of the virus from the younger generations unintentionally to the older generations. And that’s how it is happening and that’s what we’re very concerned about. The older people are isolated from their loved ones. A lot are in nursing homes, which presents challenges on their own. They’re separated from the daily companions. And this is resulted, again, in unintended consequences of loneliness, depression, stress, and anxiety to many and it has been very difficult, as you know. So we are saying emphatically it’s time for our younger adults to behave like mature adults. This is very serious.
Governor McMaster: (03:22)
Wear your mask. Keep that distance. Wash your hands. Be careful. Don’t cough or sneeze or get too close to people, particularly the older people, because although our younger people may feel just fine and show absolutely no signs and no symptoms, they might be just carrying that virus as we know from the statistics and unintentionally inflict permanent damage. So again, wear your mask, wear your mask, wear your mask. Wash your hands. Keep that distance. Follow those rules and we’ll get through this.
Governor McMaster: (04:01)
This executive order does not apply to alcohol sold at convenience stores, grocery stores, wine and liquor stores, or retail businesses. And again, I say it’s effective … It goes into effect at 11:00 PM on Saturday. That’s tomorrow, July the 11th, 2020. And will stay in place nightly until further notice, until things get better. And if things don’t get better, then we’ll take other steps as necessary. Restaurants and bars that violate this order may have their beer, wine or liquor permits suspended by the state Department of Revenue.
Governor McMaster: (04:44)
There are about 8,000 restaurants and bars that are permitted by the state Department of Revenue for on site sale and consumption of alcohol. Besides being ticketed with a fine, they may lose their license by violating this order. This is a mandate. This is an order that the state can enforce. The other things like masks, 5 million people in South Carolina. Our cities, our counties, they’ve taken action, local action, for the local people. That’s fine. But this. This. The state had very difficult trying to enforce a statewide mascot and one size doesn’t fit all. But this with alcohol and beer after 11 o’clock at night, we can enforce this and we will. And we intend to and we believe that this will help in reducing the spread of this virus.
Governor McMaster: (05:39)
Dr. Duwve from DHEC.
Dr. Duwve: (05:41)
Thank you governor. Thank you. Thank you, governor. Thank you all for being here. Good morning. As of today, 11,090 of the 50, 458 confirmed coronavirus cases in South Carolina have occurred in people ages 21 to 30. This accounts for 22% of all the confirmed cases in the state. Of note, 15% of cases are 20 and under.
Dr. Duwve: (06:20)
Since June 1st, we’ve seen a 436.5% increase in newly reported COVID-19 cases in this 21 to 30 age group. 42% of all our COVID-19 cases have been reported within the past two weeks. Please think about that. Nearly half of the COVID-19 cases in the state of South Carolina have occurred in the past two weeks. And think about what those numbers are going to look like two weeks from now. If we continue to observe people not wearing masks and not socially distancing. These are just a few of the sobering facts about our current situation in South Carolina. We must all work together to get these escalating numbers under control. And I want to thank you all today for coming here wearing your masks.
Dr. Duwve: (07:12)
To do that, we need to avoid social activities that put us at greater risk for being exposed to this virus. And we need to focus on group settings where people congregate. The intent is to prevent local outbreaks that can affect large groups of people who could then also spread the disease to others in our community, including those of us who are at most risk for severe illness and even death. We know it works. We know that wearing a face mask and maintaining social distancing are effective tools in preventing this deadly virus from spreading. We also recognize that South Carolinians are socially active and that we enjoy, and we want to spend time outdoors, spend time with friends and family. And that’s what makes South Carolina such a great state to live in. And one of the reasons I moved to the state just three months ago.
Dr. Duwve: (08:02)
And one of the reasons I moved to the state just three months ago. But when engaging in certain social activities like eating or grabbing a drink out with friends especially in enclosed indoor spaces, we are putting ourselves and others at greater risk of getting and spreading the virus. In these settings people get close, they tend to talk louder over the music.And we know that this virus is spread really efficiently by people who are close to one another talking. The louder you talk, the more efficiently it’s spread for 15 minutes or longer. We understand, I understand everyone is tired. We’re looking for a way to get back to a more normal life. I myself would like that. While there is no way to ensure zero risk of infection, we encourage everyone to choose activities that are safer. Indoor spaces with less ventilation where it might be harder to keep people apart are more risky than outdoor spaces. Interacting without wearing cloth based coverings also increases the risk.
Dr. Duwve: (09:07)
So consider working out at home, taking a walk by yourself or socially distanced with a friend, hike or ride your bike, go camping. You can get carry out from a restaurant. You can enjoy virtual hangouts with friends and loved ones. You can draw a line in the sand at the beach and isolate yourself that six foot distance. You can take picnics have picnics at a park, take a blanket, go with friends have everybody take a blanket, have everybody bring their own food. There are things that we can do to enjoy everyday life while protecting ourselves and others. We must all take action. I am asking you all to take action. Because if we don’t avoid these risky social activities, if we don’t social distance and we don’t wear our masks we will see more of our friends, our family members, and our loved ones become ill, become hospitalized, ventilated, and die. We must continue to work together to fight the spread of this disease. Thank you all very much. I’m going to turn this over to director Powell.
Thank you. I think most of you all know the department of revenue issues all the alcohol and beverage licenses out there. Generally we have about 21,000 licenses that we are in control of. Now, what we’re talking about today as the governor stated really applies to about 8,000 licenses. And these are what we call on premise licenses. This is a license in which you can have beer, wine or liquor on premise. So the on is you drink it there. And the all premise licenses that we issue or based on grocery stores or convenience stores or places where you buy and then you take it out. In regard to the enforcement of this there’s really nothing changing with what we do every day at the department of revenue.
Now, what we’re going to do is we work closely with sled and what we want to achieve is compliance. Compliance is never easy. Sometimes the businesses don’t understand where we’re going with this, but what we want to do is we always issue warnings. We’re never going to go in, take a license away without a warning. So first we’ll warn, then we’ll have sled come back in or local law enforcement and talk to them. If it gets down to the point that we need to actually revoke the license or temporarily suspend the license we’ll do that. We’ll issue an order of temporary suspension. And then of course we’ll move forward on a legal through the court system. And the courts then can check our papers to make sure that we’re in compliance, that we’re not arbitrarily taking somebody’s business away.
Again, all we’re talking about are alcohol, beer, wine, alcohol liquors. We’re not saying that you can’t continue to serve food or something of the sort, but not alcohol. Pretty much that’s how we operate. It’s business as usual. This is nothing different than what we do every day out there. The hours are changing no longer would you be able to serve liquor on a Sunday sales from 12 to two but 11 o’clock’s the cut off now. And we’ll just enforce it as the governor stated through his executive order. Thank you, Dwayne.
Duane Parrish: (13:13)
Duane Parrish, director of South Carolina, parks, recreation and tourism. Tourism is $24 billion industry for the state of South Carolina. And quite frankly it adds to the quality of life for all South Carolinians and visitors alike. Recent news have hurt tourism in our comeback during this time. We employ over 225,000 people in our state. Many of whom are still out of work. The recent national publicity around cases has hurt our industry’s come back. I implore everyone residents and visitors alike be smart, wear a mask, keep your distance, wash your hands. Be smart when you go out, but be smart enjoy all South Carolina has to offer, but do it wisely. Thank you, governor.
Governor McMaster: (13:56)
Thank you. Are there any questions?
Speaker 1: (14:00)
Governor, what if any effect did the club shooting in Greenville over the holiday have on the business industry?
Governor McMaster: (14:08)
Well, there was an example of someone not following the rules. That club should not have been opened. And this of course will be a Nova violation if that club comes back open and they violate this and they’ll be responsible for that as well. Yes, sir. Ma’am excuse me.
Speaker 2: (14:31)
This might be more for [inaudible 00:14:32] when it comes to that hospital capacity and the possibility of the bed surge plan where are we at with that as we’ve seen the cases [inaudible 00:14:40] this week?
Dr. Duwve: (14:51)
So currently in acute care hospitals there’s a 75% utilization rate for hospital beds, ICU beds there’s a 75% utilization rates rate and ventilators there is a 25% utilization rate. COVID patients hospitalized represent only less than 20% of inpatients. And COVID patients ventilated represent about 12% of those patients ventilated. So there does remain hospital capacity and of course [inaudible 00:15:34] works closely with the hospital association and others on surge.
Speaker 2: (15:39)
Are there any percent supposed to be that threshold I guess where they’re supposed to advise the hospitals to start looking into the surge plan? Are there any hospitals in the state that are in that priority list if we do hit closer to 80% then?
Dr. Duwve: (15:53)
I am not aware of individual hospitals. I do know that those conversations are happening and that planning continues and we are working closely with the hospital-
Dr. Duwve: (16:03)
… and we are working closely with the Hospital Association, with the Guard, and individual hospitals to talk about surge.
Speaker 3: (16:09)
Doctor, may I ask a question about the demographics of the patients statewide in hospitals? They’re being older, younger, their race [inaudible 00:16:18]?
Dr. Duwve: (16:17)
So, we have patients hospitalized who are everywhere from zero years of age to 93 years of age. The demographics of hospitalized patients appears not to have shifted. There are, indeed, more patients hospitalized than we had seen historically, and we are experiencing more deaths, as well, and the ages of those people who are dying remain predominantly those who are 65 and older.
Speaker 4: (16:49)
Governor, based on what the doctor said earlier today that closed indoor spaces, he talked about how the virus spreads. Indoor spaces with less ventilation where it can be hard to keep people apart increases the risk. Yes or no, would you be in favor of schools resuming in person activity given where we are with the virus?
Governor McMaster: (17:09)
Our plan is to have the schools open. And there are a lot of discussions going on about that right now, and it is important that the schools be open for a variety of reasons. It’s not healthy for the children to be out of school for emotional reasons. As I mentioned, some percentage of way too many during this closure period we’ve lost contact with. That is the Department of Education and all involved, all the way down into districts have not been able to reach several thousand children. And there are some that have only been reached sporadically and not consistently. So we need to get them back in. People have to go to work. Parents have to go to work. Teachers want to go to work. Everybody wants to get the schools started, but we have to be sure that we’re doing so safely.
Governor McMaster: (17:58)
What we may have is a situation where if they have some parents who they’re concerned about sending their child to school, some arrangements can be made, but we intend to open the schools and we’re making plans in that direction now. I wanted to mention something that Dr. [Davey 00:18:15] touched a moment, and that is that the information we received recently, there are some hospitals, particularly in the Grand Strand area that are higher than the average. But we do have a plan, as you know, with working with the National Guard and others that we’re getting ready to stand up earlier when the surge did not appear when we thought it would. But that plan is still very active and is ready to go at any time to provide auxiliary space for the less sick patients that need to come to the hospitals. And it’s quite a logistic plan. And we’re confident that that’ll work.
Governor McMaster: (18:53)
We don’t think we’ve gotten to that point, yet. But one problem that we are seeing is a shortage of staff people to work in the hospital, nurses and others, because a lot of them, they don’t get sick at the hospitals, we think, but they get sick outside of the hospital. So that is an issue that we’re addressing now, to be sure we have plenty of people to work in the hospitals to take care of this surge when and if it happens. Yes, sir.
Speaker 5: (19:21)
In that same vein, when you talk about teaching students, what are the concerns level on your end for the staff that have to teach them and potential safety concerns with the virus and their concerns being back in the classroom?
Governor McMaster: (19:32)
The American Pediatrics Association and the South Carolina chapter of that have studies and data to indicate that the children at those young ages, those children do not get sick and also do not spread the virus, those who do get sick. And they are recommending strongly that we go back to school, that the schools open back up. So all of those things are being taken into consideration. But again, keeping that distance, wearing the face mask, having shields up like they have at a lot of the convenience stores. You have to talk through a big piece of plastic. Those kinds of things can be done and a lot of ideas. We’ve got a lot of very innovative people and we’re learning some ideas from other places, as well. Yes, sir.
Speaker 6: (20:25)
Governor, we heard some reports that a hospital in Georgetown had to have the National Guard step in. Is the National Guard helping some hospitals already, do you know?
Governor McMaster: (20:33)
I’m unaware of that. But I know one thing, that General [McCardy 00:20:39] and his entire organization have been working regularly with all of us and are prepared to do whatever’s necessary. Yes, ma’am.
Speaker 7: (20:49)
Governor, we’ve been getting some calls from concerned viewers saying that they’ve been going out to these bars and restaurants at night and a lot of these younger people were not wearing masks. They would ask them to wear masks, they say, “No, I’m young. I can beat coronavirus. I have what it takes to beat it.” If this continues, if you see the surge continuing, would you potentially consider mandating the use of face mask when you’re outside, statewide?
Governor McMaster: (21:10)
The purpose of this order that we’re issuing today is to address that very situation. And we believe that it will have a good, positive impact, if only to remind people how dangerous this situation is. But we think that as a practical matter, it will eliminate a lot of the congregation and the close contact that we know goes on. And with this virus around, this is not the time up to do that. But again, to issue a statewide mandate to be enforced by a statewide authorities is impractical to do. But as you know, many localities, the local authorities, counties, cities, and towns, have the authority to pass tailored mask ordinances that are tailor made for their kinds of businesses and the people and clientele. And they know their businesses and they also have all have law enforcement, local law enforcement that can do that. Yes, ma’am.
Speaker 8: (22:11)
Governor, data showed us that our case numbers have risen over 900% since you first started reopening in early [inaudible 00:06:17]. What is your response to criticism that was started reopening too quickly? And if we start seeing these case numbers continue to rise, what does it look like as far as continuing reopening?
Governor McMaster: (22:30)
We’re not going to go back and close businesses. We cannot do it. As you know, the federal government has been taking tax money and sending it to help us with the uninsured, unemployment insurance, as well as grants and loans in many, many of varieties. But South Carolina’s business is business. We had Accelerate SC discuss and examine all of these issues thoroughly, as you remember, and issued a very good report. And we know that we must go to work. We cannot shut down. But at the same time, we know this disease better than we did before. We’re learning things more and more about it. And we know that it can be controlled if we wear that mask, wash your hands, keep this social distance, be smart, be courteous, be careful. But wear the mask, keep that distance. We’ve said it a hundred times. And we’re saying it again today, and we are going to … this order today, we think, will be a help. Yes, sir. One more over there.
Speaker 9: (23:38)
Dr. Davey, just from your perspective, I know part of the recommendations for schools opening would require to have nurses at all schools. But in the state, hundreds of schools are without nurses. Is it conceivable and is it safe for schools to reopen if they don’t even have a nurse in the building?
Dr. Duwve: (23:57)
I believe that school corporations all have access to school nurses. I don’t-
Dr. Duwve: (24:03)
… access to school nurses. I don’t have all the details here. I know in Indiana, not all schools had nurses, but they all had access to nurses. I assume that’s the same here. And that those nurses are available should a child gets sick, should a teacher get sick. So I believe that we are no different than most other states.
Speaker 10: (24:23)
So even without a nurse in the building, you would feel comfortable with kids going back based on what you even said about closed, compact spaces and talking loudly, like you would with children, for potential to spread for poor ventilation, perhaps with some of these schools.
Dr. Duwve: (24:37)
I think that if we do what we need to do now, we have six weeks before the start of school, it is really of utmost concern to all of us that we keep everyone in South Carolina safe, from our seniors, to our parents, to our teachers, to our kids. And if we all work together now, in six weeks we will be a healthier, safer South Carolina. And we hopefully won’t have to worry about questions like that. Thank you.
Speaker 11: (25:06)
Governor, so let’s say that the cases continue to rise among people that are ages 21 to 30, would you consider maybe expanding the hours of the cutoff for alcohol maybe past 11:00 would people just tend to go out earlier in the day to get their alcohol?
Governor McMaster: (25:23)
We’ll cross those bridges when we come to them, but this is a very strong order and this is a mandate, a statewide mandate. One size does fit all in this situation about the service and sale of beer or alcohol after 11:00 PM and it can and will be enforced. We have the state authority, the state power to enforce it, and we will. And we hope this will make a difference. We hope we won’t have to take anyone’s license, but we’re ready to enforce it. Yes, sir.
Speaker 12: (25:49)
Just one question. What’s the economic damage to tourism that we’re seeing. Do we have numbers about, especially since we’re getting national attention for our virus rate, do we have numbers about how much this is costing us in this industry?
Duane Parrish: (26:06)
Statewide hotel occupancy dropped to around 15% in mid April. We saw nine consecutive weeks of growth after that, up into 58% the week ending before July 4th. The week ending July 4th, it dropped back to 52%. Clearly, the national publicity surrounding the number of cases has had an impact on tourism, not just for South Carolina, but for other states, too. But as we try to get these 225,000 people, all of them back employed, we have to bring our cases down. It’s really that simple.
Speaker 12: (26:36)
This is a crucial time for South Carolina [crosstalk 00:26:38].
Duane Parrish: (26:38)
Correct. Spring and summer are our busiest times of year, particularly for the coast.
Speaker 12: (26:43)
Which is where the cases have been popping up, correct? The coast has been the worst?
Duane Parrish: (26:48)
I would defer to Dr. Duwve where the cases are, but yes, there have been some indications that they’re higher on the coast.
Speaker 13: (26:55)
Since you first started asking people, asking instead of mandating people to wear a mask, our case count has exploded and hundreds, hundreds, more South Carolinians have died. It’s clear to many, not just me saying this, that what you’re doing is advocating half measures that don’t get to the root of the problem despite many people, including Dr. Linda Bell of DHEC, Dr. Fauci, the nation’s foremost epidemiologist and many, many other people that an order mandating masks is the only effective thing, along with social distancing.
Speaker 13: (27:34)
I know my 14 year old daughter, if I tell her governor McMaster has asked you to wear a mask, she’ll laugh. But if I can tell her governor McMaster has ordered you to wear a mask, she will more than likely do it. And laws, mandates, have a certain moral authority. They’re not just a legal authority. When you or the IRS order us to pay taxes, everybody does it.
Governor McMaster: (27:59)
Come on, Y’all. Come on.
Speaker 13: (28:01)
I’m just building the saying what people say, governor, because the question I’m asking you has a context, a moral, a scientific, a social, and a political context.
Governor McMaster: (28:13)
I would recommend and I believe that your telling your daughter to wear a mask, you see her, you live with her, you know where she is, you know where she goes, be a lot better than me doing that. I cannot enforce, the state authorities cannot enforce, a statewide mandate for masks on 5 million people.
Speaker 13: (28:33)
They do it with seat belts, governor.
Governor McMaster: (28:34)
That’s entirely different, and we’ve discussed that. And you know that’s entirely… But this order, we can enforce this. This ordinance, this rule under the governor’s executive authority mandating the bars to close at 11:00 PM, excuse me, not close, the restaurants and bars to cease the sale and service of alcohol at 11:00 PM, is something that we have the tools, at the state level, to enforce. Cities and towns can enforce the mask ordinances better than the state authorities. That’s where that ought to be done.
Governor McMaster: (29:13)
But this, that I’m announcing today, is a statewide mandate. One size does fit all. It can and will be enforced. Thank you.
Speaker 14: (29:23)
Have there been any outbreaks tied to bars?
Governor McMaster: (29:23)
Speaker 14: (29:27)
Have there been any outbreaks that you know or believe started in bars since you’re [crosstalk 00:00:29:33]?
Governor McMaster: (29:34)
I don’t know if we have any definitive information on that, but that’s certainly where all the evidence is pointing, is that that is a very productive place for the spread of the virus. And you can imagine why, because people are close together and usually an enclosed environment for extended period of time.
Speaker 15: (29:52)
Thank you, everyone.
Governor McMaster: (29:53)
Thank you very much.