Lowcountry Headlines

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McMaster letter to lawmakers doesn’t mean closures will last into June

ByPatrick Phillips | April 16, 2020 at 2:54 PM EDT - Updated April 16 at 2:54 PM

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCSC) - A letter between Gov. Henry McMaster and the state’s General Assembly about plans to make sure a budge funding plan is passed is being misinterpreted, the governor’s office said Thursday.

In a letter to the leaders of the state’s General Assembly, McMaster says he is willing to work with the General Assembly to make sure a budget funding plan passes without putting members’ health at risk.

But McMaster spokesman Bryan Symmes says some have misinterpreted the letter to mean the governor does not intend to allow businesses to reopen until late June.

Rep. Jonathon Hill posted a copy of a letter from McMaster that Hill says went out to the legislature Thursday afternoon. In the letter, McMaster wrote to Senate President Harvey Peeler and South Carolina House Speaker Jay Lucas.

McMaster refers to a South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control projection that the peak of positive COVID-19 cases and fatalities will peak around May 1 and then begin a gradual decline.

"Returning before May 14 for session, even briefly, could place the health and safety of your members at an elevated risk for exposure to the virus," the letter states. "However, I believe - and hope that by late June that risk will have diminished to the extent that businesses and activities in our state may be safely resumed and conducted using personal safety precautions."

Symmes says people should not take that to mean businesses will be forced to remain closed that long.

He said McMaster wants to avoid having state senators and representatives return before mid-May solely to sign a continuing resolution to keep funding for state agencies active and prevent a government shutdown.

Symmes says McMaster intends to work with the General Assmebly to make sure state government funding continues without putting the health of state lawmakers at risk, adding McMaster is adamant a government shutdown won't happen.

Symmes said there is still no word on when non-essential businesses will be allowed to open or when the governor's "Home or Work" order will be lifted.

“No one wants to reopen businesses more than the governor does,” Symmes said. But McMaster is meeting regularly with state health officials to monitor the pandemic and the number of new cases. Symmes insists the governor will allow the lifting of restrictions as soon as possible but only when safe to do so.

McMaster has called a news conference for Thursday afternoonwith state health officials to discuss the ongoing response to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Copyright 2020 WCSC. All rights reserved.

Photo: Live 5 News

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