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Summary of Governor's Executive Orders Relating to COVID-19; Updated Through EO 2020-34

Since March 11, 2020 — the beginning of South Carolina's official response to the COVID-19 threat — Governor McMaster has issued 28 executive orders (EO 2020-07 through EO 2020-34). Of these 28 executive orders, the first (EO 2020-07, issued March 11) responded to the declaration of emergency in North Carolina, which occurred prior to the emergency declaration in South Carolina. Five more executive orders did not relate to COVID-19; see EO 2020-20 (relating to a winter weather event on February 20), EO 2020-24 (relating to tornadoes in the state on April 12), EO 2020-26 (appointing the Barnwell County Treasurer), EO 2020-27 (lowering flags for Deputy LaDue of the Charleston County Sheriff's Office) and EO 2020-32 (again appointing Barnwell County Treasurer). The Governor has therefore issued 22 executive orders specifically relating to the COVID-19 crisis in South Carolina.

This summary does not purport to include all relevant details of the executive orders. Instead, this summary is intended to provide a high-level overview of the primary subject of each executive order. For further details, municipalities should consult with their municipal attorneys and refer to the full text of the executive orders.

Enforcement. The executive orders generally authorize local law enforcement officers to enforce the orders pursuant to SC Code Section 16-7-10, which provides that any person violating the order "is guilty of a misdemeanor and, upon conviction, must be fined not more than one hundred dollars or imprisoned for not more than thirty days." The executive orders further authorize municipalities to enforce the orders in the state courts by injunction, mandamus or other appropriate legal action.

Preemption. Beginning with EO 2020-13, the executive orders generally each provide that any local ordinance, rule, regulation or other restriction that conflicts with the orders is superseded and preempted.

Expiration. Many of the provisions of individual orders are time-bound and by their terms would expire. In the executive orders declaring new, separate states of emergency, however, the Governor has extended the provisions of prior orders. For example, Section 1(H) of EO 2020-29 provides: "I hereby declare that the provisions of the following Orders shall remain in full force and effect for the duration of the State of Emergency declared herein, unless otherwise modified, amended, or rescinded below or by prior or future Order: Executive Order Nos. 2020- 09, 2020-10, 2020-11, 2020-12, 2020-13, 2020-14, 2020-16, 2020-18, 2020-19, 2020-21, 2020- 22, 2020-25, and 2020-28." Therefore, except for provisions that have been specifically superseded, prior actions taken by the Governor remain in effect throughout the state of emergency.

Order 2020-08 (March 13, 2020): Declaring State of Emergency in Response to COVID-19

  • Declares a state of emergency in South Carolina and vests the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control with emergency powers set forth in the Emergency Health Powers Act, SC Code Section 44-4-10 et seq.
  • Directs DHEC to restrict visitation to nursing homes and assisted living facilities, with the exception of end-of-life situations.
  • Orders closure of all public school in Kershaw and Lancaster for 14 days.
  • Directs state correctional institutions and local detention facilities to suspend visitation processes and procedures.
  • Suspends licensing and registration requirements for private security personnel or companies who are contracted with South Carolina security companies in protecting property and restoring essential services in South Carolina; directs SLED to initiate an emergency registration.
  • Waives enforcement of state and federal rules for registration, permitting, length, width, weight, load and hours of service for commercial vehicles and operators of commercial vehicles responding to the declared emergency.
  • Deploys national guard and prohibits price gouging.

Order 2020-09 (March 15, 2020): Closing Schools, Other Provisions in Response to COVID-19

  • MODIFIED by EO 2020-33 to order that elections postponed by this executive order shall be held on Tuesday, July 14, 2020.
  • Directs closure of all public schools (including state-supported colleges, universities and technical colleges) for students and nonessential employees beginning Monday, March 16, 2020, and continuing through Tuesday, March 31, 2020.
  • Directs that all elections scheduled to be held on or before May 1, 2020, shall be postponed and rescheduled.
  • Urges that public gatherings be canceled, postponed, rescheduled or limited so as not to exceed 100 people; does not apply to meetings of state or local government bodies or to private businesses and employers.

Order 2020-10 (March 17, 2020): Directing Additional Emergency Measures Due to COVID-19 (restaurant closures)

  • MODIFIED by EO 2020-31 to allow outdoor, on-premises dining, effective Monday, May 4, 2020, at 12:01 a.m.
  • MODIFIED by EO 2020-34 to allow limited indoor, on-premises dining, effective Monday, May 11, 2020, at 12:01 a.m.
  • Directs restaurants and food-service establishments to suspend on-premises or dine-in consumption, beginning Wednesday, March 18, 2020, and continuing through Tuesday, March 31, 2020.
  • Allows the South Carolina Department of Revenue and/or the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division to summarily suspend an establishment's license, pending proceedings for revocation, if the agency finds that public health, safety or welfare imperatively requires emergency action.
  • Prohibits and directs the postponement, rescheduling, or cancellation of public gatherings to be held at facilities owned or operated by the state or its political subdivision, beginning Wednesday, March 18, 2020, and continuing through Tuesday, March 31, 2020, if such gathering involves more than 50 people in a single room, area or other confined space.
  • Provides that local government bodies should use all available technology to conduct their meetings and accommodate public participation by virtual or remote means.

Order 2020-11 (March 19, 2020): Additional Emergency Measures & Regulatory Relief Regarding COVID-19 (state office closure, unemployment provisions, and health regulations)

  • Orders all nonessential employees and staff of the state to not physically report to work, effective March 20, 2020, and until further notice.
  • Prohibits local governments from closing any facility that is occupied or utilized by any agency, department, official or employee of the state.
  • Directs the South Carolina Department of Employment and Workforce to waive application of the one-week waiting period for individuals who are otherwise eligible to receive unemployment benefits.
  • Authorizes DEW to extend the deadline for employers to pay unemployment insurance taxes on first-quarter 2020 wages until June 1, 2020, without interest.
  • Directs law enforcement officers of the state and political subdivisions to maintain peace and good order, to include vigorously enforcing the laws of this state pertaining to looting, robbery, theft and acts of violence.

Order 2020-12 (March 21, 2020): Regulatory Flexibility to Facilitate "Social Distancing" (curbside alcohol sales)

  • Orders promotion of effective social distancing practices, including to avoid "eating or drinking at bars, restaurants, and food courts—use drive-thru, pickup, or delivery options."
  • Suspends regulation that prohibits sale of beer or wine to anyone who remains in a motor vehicle during the transaction.
  • Orders DOR to interpret laws in a manner that allows an alcohol permit holder to sell beer and wine in sealed containers for curbside delivery or pickup and off-premises consumption, and imposes rules for such sales.

Order 2020-13 (March 23, 2020): Authorizing Law Enforcement to Preserve Public Health (gatherings of more than three people)

  • Authorizes law enforcement officers of the state and political subdivisions to do whatever may be deemed necessary to maintain peace and good order.
  • Authorizes state and local law enforcement officers to disperse gatherings of three or more people if such law enforcement officers determine, in their discretion, that such gathering poses or could pose a threat to public health.
  • Authorizes mutual aid agreements and waives the requirement that such mutual aid agreements be in writing.

Order 2020-14 (March 27, 2020): Self-Quarantine for Individuals from High-Risk Areas

  • RESCINDED by EO 2020-30, effective May 1, 2020
  • Orders that persons who enter the state from an area with substantial community spread (including New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and the City of New Orleans) must isolate or self-quarantine for a period of 14 days.

Order 2020-15 (March 28, 2020): State of Emergency Due to COVID-19 Pandemic (second state of emergency declaration)

  • Declares a separate and continuing state of emergency in South Carolina and reaffirms the contents of the first emergency declaration (EO 2020-08). Except at set forth below, the content of EO 2020-15 is substantially identical to EO 2020-08.
  • Closes all state schools, colleges, and universities indefinitely, and at least through end of April; provides for virtual instruction and limits on-campus housing.
  • Authorizes and directs emergency dispatchers to ask if anyone in the caller's household has tested positive for COVID-19 or is exhibiting symptoms consistent with the same.

Order 2020-16 (March 30, 2020): Emergency Access Restrictions for Public Beaches & Waters Due to COVID-19 Pandemic

  • MODIFED by EO 2020-25 to authorize the managing authority of any public boat ramp or landing to reopen such public boat ramp or landing for the launching and retrieving of boats on the state's public waters.
  • MODIFIED by EO 2020-28 to order that public beach access points and public piers, docks, and wharfs (including adjacent parking lots and public facilities) be reopened to public access for recreational purposes.
  • MODIFIED by EO 2020-34 to rescind the restrictions on the beaching or rafting of boats and the requirement that vessels must remain underway at all times.
  • Orders that public beach access points (including adjacent parking lots and public facilities) shall be closed to public access for recreational purposes.
  • Orders that public piers, docks, wharfs, boat ramps and boat landings providing public access to the public waters of this state (including adjacent parking lots and public facilities) shall be closed to public access.
  • Prohibits beaching or rafting of boats and provides that vessels must remain underway at all times unless exigent circumstances exist. Anchoring to fish is allowed but rafting is prohibited.

Order 2020-17 (March 31, 2020): Closure of Non-Essential Businesses

  • SUPERSEDED by EO 2020-18 to add certain designated retail businesses to list of "non-essential businesses."
  • Effective Wednesday, April 1, 2020, at 5 p.m., orders closure of a list of enumerated "non-essential" businesses. The listed nonessential businesses fall into three categories of entertainment venues and facilities, recreational and athletic facilities, and close-contact service providers.
  • Authorizes and directs the Department of Commerce, in consultation with the Attorney General of South Carolina, to issue supplemental guidance regarding the order and to provide clarification as to whether a specific business is required to close.
  • Provides a process for review of and response to essentiality requests.
  • Urges all businesses to facilitate effective social distancing practices.

Order 2020-18 (April 3, 2020): Closure of Additional Non-Essential Businesses

  • MODIFIED by EO 2020-28 to authorize certain retail stores to reopen to the public, effective Monday, April 20, 2020, at 5:00 p.m.
  • Supersedes, rescinds and replaces the provisions of EO 2020-17.
  • Maintains the original list of nonessential businesses and adds certain designated retail businesses.
  • Allows such retail businesses to continue to operate for the limited purpose of fulfilling online or telephone orders or providing alternate means of purchasing or delivering products or services (e.g. curbside purchase, pickup, or home or off-site delivery), but such businesses must do so in a manner that provides effective social distancing.
  • Specifically exempts the sale and transportation of firearms and ammunition.

Order 2020-19 (April 3, 2020): Lodging & Travel Restrictions for Individuals from High-Risk Areas

  • RESCINDED by Order 2020-30, effective May 1, 2020.
  • Prohibits establishments that provide short-term rentals, vacation rentals or other lodging accommodations from making new reservations for individuals from areas identified in a CDC travel advisory or notice as a location with extensive community transmission of COVID-19, to include New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.
  • Exempts lodging for individuals operating commercial vehicles transporting essential goods and products, individuals employed by airlines, and individuals otherwise engaged in commercial transportation activities.
  • Exempts lodging for Individuals performing or assisting with military, healthcare, public safety, or emergency response operations, as well as other operations or services identified by the United States Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency as essential to continued critical infrastructure viability.
  • Amends EO 2020-14 (self-quarantine for individuals from high-risk areas) to include these exemptions.

Order 2020-21 (April 6, 2020): Home or Work Order

  • Modified by EO 2020-28 to authorize certain retail stores to reopen to the public, effective Monday, April 20, 2020, at 5:00 p.m.
  • MODIFIED by EO 2020-31 to effectively eliminate the "home or work" requirement, effective Monday, May 4, 2020, at 12:01 a.m.
  • Orders that effective Tuesday, April 7, 2020, at 5 p.m., residents and visitors must limit social interaction, practice social distancing and take every possible precaution to avoid potential exposure to COVID-19. In particular, residents and visitors must limit their movements except for essential business, essential activities, or critical infrastructure operations.
  • Defines essential business to exclude all businesses identified as nonessential in EO 2020-18.
  • Defines essential activities to mean (a) caring for, visiting or transporting a family member; (b) obtaining necessary supplies and services for family or household members; (c) engaging in activities essential for the health and safety of family or household members; (d) caring for pets; (e) engaging in outdoor exercise or recreational activities; (f) attending religious services conducted in churches, synagogues or other houses of worship; and (g) travelling as required by law, to include attending court proceedings and transporting children as required by law or order.
  • Defines critical infrastructure operations to mean (a) operating commercial vehicles transporting essential goods and products, individuals employed by airlines, and individuals otherwise engaged in commercial transportation activities; and (b) performing or assisting with military, healthcare, public safety, or emergency response operations, as well as any other operations or services identified by the United States Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency as essential to continued critical infrastructure viability.
  • Authorizes and directs the Department of Commerce to issue clarifications, guidance, rules, regulations or restrictions implementing the order.
  • Preserves the curbside purchase, pickup, or home or off-site delivery options granted by EO 2020-18.
  • For retail businesses allowed to continue, (a) imposes an emergency maximum occupancy rate of five customers per 1,000 square feet of retail space, or 20% of the occupancy limit as determined by the fire marshal, whichever is less; (b) requires social distancing practices so as not allow visitors to congregate within six feet of one another, exclusive of family units; and (c) requires businesses to comply with any applicable sanitation guidelines promulgated by the CDC, DHEC, or any other state or federal public health officials.
  • Exempts essential or emergency meetings of state or local government bodies or gatherings of government officials or employees required in connection with the performance of emergency or essential government functions. However, to the extent possible, state or local government bodies should accommodate public participation via virtual or other remote or alternate means.

Order 2020-22 (April 7, 2020): Authorization for COVID-19 Support Payments by Employers (voluntary payments to furloughed employees)

  • Authorizes employers to make voluntary COVID-19-related support payments to furloughed employees. If these COVID-19 support payments are made in accordance with the order and with rules and forms issued by DEW, the voluntary payments will not be considered wages and will not reduce unemployment benefits.
  • The employer's documentation to DEW must state the anticipated length of the furlough, the amount of the payments, and the employees receiving the payments, and must attest that the payments are not remuneration for services during the furlough and are not required to be repaid.

Order 2020-23 (April 12, 2020): Third State of Emergency Due to COVID-19 Pandemic

  • Declares a "a separate and distinct emergency … due to the evolving nature and scope of the public health threat or other risks posed by COVID-19 and the actual, ongoing, and anticipated impacts associated with the same."
  • Contains the same general provisions as EO 2020-15 (the second state of emergency declaration) but expands the transportation waivers contained therein.

Order 2020-25 (April 16, 2020): Modification of Emergency Restrictions for Public Waters & Emergency Measures for Unemployment Claims & Benefits

  • Amends EO 2020-16 (Emergency Access Restrictions for Public Beaches and Waters) by authorizing the managing authority of any public boat ramp or landing to reopen such public boat ramp or landing for the launching and retrieving of boats on the state's public waters. Public piers, docks and wharfs providing public access to the public waters of this state remain closed.
  • Despite the authorization to reopen, also authorizes the managing authority of any public boat ramp or landing to remain closed if it is determined that such action is necessary to preserve or protect public health.
  • Notes that individuals on the state's public waters remain subject to the provisions of EO 2020-13, as extended by EO 2020-23, which authorizes enforcement officers to disperse gatherings of three or more people if such gathering is deemed to pose a threat to public health.
  • Directs DEW to waive the one-week waiting period for individuals who are otherwise eligible to receive unemployment benefits. This action was previously taken in EO 2020-11 for claims submitted between March 15, 2020, and April 18, 2020. EO 2020-25 extends the direction to apply to claims submitted on or after April 19, 2020, through the duration of the state of emergency.

Order 2020-28 (April 20, 2020): Modification of Restrictions for Public Beaches and Waters and Incremental Modification of Non-Essential Business Closures

  • Amends EO 2020-16 (Emergency Access Restrictions for Public Beaches and Waters) by ordering that public beach access points and public piers, docks, and wharfs (including adjacent parking lots and public facilities) be reopened to public access for recreational purposes.
  • Despite the order to reopen public beach access points and public piers, docks, and wharfs, allows local governments to close or otherwise restrict the use of public beach access points and public piers, docks, and wharfs (including adjacent parking lots and public facilities), if it is determined that such action is necessary to protect public health.
  • Authorizes the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources and the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control to provide additional or supplemental guidance, rules, regulations, or restrictions regarding the application of the order.
  • Amends EO 2020-18 (Closure of Additional Non-Essential Businesses) and 2020-21 (Home or Work Order) to authorize certain retail stores to reopen to the public, effective Monday, April 20, 2020, at 5:00 p.m. Retail stores allowed to reopen include furniture and home-furnishings stores; clothing, shoe, and clothing-accessory stores; jewelry, luggage, and leather goods stores; department stores; sporting goods stores; book, craft, and music stores; flea markets; and florists and flower stores.
  • For retail businesses allowed to reopen, (a) imposes an emergency maximum occupancy rate of five customers per 1,000 square feet of retail space, or 20% of the occupancy limit as determined by the fire marshal, whichever is less; (b) requires social distancing practices so as not allow visitors to congregate within six feet of one another, exclusive of family units; and (c) requires businesses to comply with any applicable sanitation guidelines promulgated by the CDC, DHEC, or any other state or federal public health officials.

Order 2020-29 (April 27,2020): State of Emergency Due to COVID-19 Pandemic Response, Other Measures (Fourth State of Emergency)

  • MODIFIED by EO 2020-33 to order that elections postponed by this executive order shall be held on Tuesday, July 14, 2020.
  • Declares a "a new and distinct emergency, which warrants further proactive action by the State of South Carolina and the implementation and enforcement of additional extraordinary measures to address the same."
  • Contains the same general provisions as EO 2020-23 (the third state of emergency declaration) and extends prior executive orders through the duration of the state of emergency.
  • Substantially expands the provisions relating to school closures. In particular, provides that public schools are authorized and encouraged to provide: (1) distance learning activities; (2) meals to children; (3) alternative and innovative high school graduation ceremonies; (4) services to students with disabilities; (5) individualized support to students who are struggling academically or who need mental health counseling; and (6) collection of instructional materials and textbooks during the last two weeks of school, while also allowing retrieval of personal belongings.
  • Authorize and directs the Department of Education to include days of distance learning as instructional days to meet the 180-day requirement contained in S.C. Code § 59-1-425.
  • Urges school districts to provide voluntary, in-person summer learning opportunities for kindergarten through eighth grade students who are at risk of falling behind in their learning.
  • Orders that all elections to be held on or before May 12, 2020, shall be postponed and rescheduled.

Order 2020-30 (May 1, 2020): Rescinding Self-Quarantine, Lodging, & Travel Restrictions for Individuals Entering S.C. from High-Risk Areas

  • Rescinds EO 2020-14 (Self-Quarantine for Individuals from High-Risk Areas), which required individuals from an area with substantial community spread of COVID-19 to isolate or self-quarantine for a specific period of time after entering South Carolina.
  • Rescinds EO 2020-19 (Lodging & Travel Restrictions for Individuals from High-Risk Areas), which prohibited establishments that provide short-term rentals, vacation rentals or other lodging accommodations from making new reservations for individuals from areas identified in a CDC travel advisory or notice as a location with extensive community transmission of COVID-19, to include New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.

Order 2020-31 (May 3, 2020): Modification of Home or Work Order & Authorization of Outdoor Dining Services

  • Modifies EO 2020-21 (Home or Work Order), which required individuals to limit their movements outside of their residence except for purposes of engaging in essential business, essential activities, or critical infrastructure operations, to replace the word "require" with the word "encourage." The net effect is to rescind the "home or work" requirement, effective Monday, May 4, 2020, at 12:01 a.m.
  • Modifies EO 2020-10 (Restaurant Closure), which directed restaurants and food-service establishments to suspend on-premises or dine-in consumption, to authorize restaurants to provide outdoor customer dining services, effective Monday, May 4, 2020, at 12:01 a.m.
  • Encourages restaurants that provide outdoor dining services to consider and incorporate industry guidelines regarding outdoor seating and to implement applicable sanitation guidelines promulgated by the CDC, DHEC, and other state or federal public health officials.
  • Authorizes DHEC to provide guidance and rules regarding the application of, or clarify, the Order, without the need for further orders.

Order 2020-33 (May 8, 2020): Rescheduling Elections Postponed by Executive Orders 2020-09 & 2020-29

  • Orders that elections postponed by EO 2020-09 and EO 2020-29 shall be held on Tuesday, July 14, 2020, to include those elections identified in a tentative list provided by the State Election Commission.
  • The tentative State Election Commission list of postponed elections is attached to the executive order, which may be found here.

Order 2020-34 (May 8, 2020): Authorization of Limited Indoor Dining Services & Rescission of Boating Restrictions

  • Modifies EO 2020-10 (Restaurant Closure), which directed restaurants and food-service establishments to suspend on-premises or dine-in consumption, to authorize restaurants to provide limited indoor, on-premises customer dining, effective Monday, May 11, 2020, at 12:01 a.m.
  • Encourages restaurants that provide limited indoor, on-premises dining services to consider and incorporate industry guidelines regarding indoor seating and to implement applicable sanitation guidelines promulgated by the CDC, DHEC, and other state or federal public health officials.
  • Authorizes DHEC to provide guidance and rules regarding the application of, or clarify, the Order, without the need for further orders.
  • Modifies EO 2020-16 (Emergency Access Restrictions for Public Beaches & Waters Due to COVID-19 Pandemic) to rescind the restrictions on the beaching or rafting of boats and the requirement that vessels must remain underway at all times.