Executive Order 2020-50 Introduction 

(Preamble and Section 1)

On August 2, 2020, Governor McMaster released Executive Order 2020-50, which consolidates previous executive orders relating to the COVID-19 epidemic and imposes additional emergency measures. Order 2020-50 supersedes and replaces essentially all prior orders relating to the COVID-19 epidemic. It does not explicitly supersede the prior orders declaring sequential states of emergency. Under state law, however, declarations of emergency automatically expire after 15 days, so only Order 2020-48 — the 10th State of Emergency — remains in effect.

In short, the entire existing framework of the prior executive orders has been rescinded, aside from 2020-48 and 2020-50. 

Face Coverings (Section 2)

Section 2 of Order 2020-50 relates to face coverings and provides as follows:

  • Urges local governments to implement "appropriate and narrowly tailored" ordinances that require individuals to wear face coverings in public settings where social distancing cannot be practiced.
  • Effective Monday, August 3, 2020, requires individuals to wear a face covering in state government offices, buildings, and facilities.
  • Provides exemptions from the requirement for face coverings in state facilities in Section 2(C)[, which exemptions generally include children under 2 years old; children whose responsible adult has been unable to safely place a face covering on them; persons seeking to communicate with a hearing-impaired person; persons with a physical, mental, or behavioral health condition that prevents wearing a face covering; persons actively engaged in eating, drinking, or obtaining a service that requires access to or visibility of the face; persons engaged in strenuous exercise or physical activity; persons operating or occupying a vehicle alone or with members of the same household; persons who are voting or assisting with an election; persons who must remove the face covering for purposes of identification, security screening, or surveillance; persons who are incarcerated; and persons for whom wearing a face covering would create a risk to the health or safety of the person due to their occupation or job function.]
  • Defines face covering in Section 2(D).
  • Excludes buildings controlled by the legislative and judicial branches, which can adopt their own rules.

Restaurant Operations (Section 3)

Section 3(A) allows on-premises restaurant service, subject to these requirements and conditions:
  • Requires restaurants to take reasonable steps to comply with guidelines established by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the SC Department of Health and Environmental Control, and other state or federal public health officials to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
  • Orders that restaurants require employees, customers and other visitors to wear face coverings except while actively engaged in eating or drinking.
  • Prohibits the sale or consumption of beer, wine or alcoholic liquor between the hours of 11 p.m. and 10 a.m.
  • Limits indoor, dine-in service to no more than 50% of the restaurant's occupancy limit.
  • Requires that restaurants place indoor and outdoor tables at least 6 feet apart.
  • Limits seating at each table to no more than 8 customers, except for members of the same family or household.
  • Requires restaurants to ensure that guests maintain a minimum of 6 feet of separation from other parties while waiting to be seated.
  • Prohibits restaurants from allowing guests to congregate in bar areas and orders restaurants to remove or rearrange bar stools to maintain a minimum of 6 feet of separation between guests.
  • Requires restaurants to post signs denying entry to individuals who have COVID-19 symptoms or who have tested positive for COVID-19 within the preceding 14 days.
  • Requires restaurants to conduct employee screening before each shift, to include temperature checks and questioning about common symptoms of COVID-19.
  • Requires restaurants to excuse any employees with COVID-19 symptoms, positive test results for COVID-19, or contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 within the preceding 14 days.
  • Provides that restaurants must actively encourage and require employees who are sick, who have symptoms of COVID-19, who have tested positive for COVID-19, or who have recently had close contact with a person who has tested positive for COVID-19 to stay at home.
  • Orders restaurants to remove common-use condiments from tables, to not place utensils on a table until after the customer is seated, and (if possible) to offer disposable single-use utensils.
  • Provides that restaurants should use disposable paper menus or sanitize menus after each use; shall use approved sanitizing solutions to clean tables, chairs and check presenters after each seating; shall provide a cleaning station or hand sanitizer at all entry points; shall frequently sanitize doorknobs and other frequently touched surfaces; should use kiosks or touch screens only if they can be sanitized between uses; and should encourage touchless payment operations.
  • Orders that restaurants discontinue self-service buffets or food stations but allows employees to dispense food in cafeteria-style buffet service.
  • Orders restaurants to discontinue self-service beverage refills.

Section 3(B) authorizes and encourages restaurants to provide food or beverages for off-premises consumption by delivery, carryout or drive-thru distribution, curbside pickup or other alternate means.

Section 3(D) authorizes and encourages law enforcement officials to enforce the provisions of this Section.

Section 3(E) provides that restaurants may impose additional restrictions and may not prohibit officials from enforcing trespass or other applicable laws to remove individuals at the request of businesses or property owners.

Emergency Restrictions on Gatherings (Section 4)

Section 4(C) defines gathering to mean an event (indoor or outdoor) that is reasonably expected to involve a large number of people at a single indoor or outdoor location. [It includes festivals, parades, concerts, theaters, stadiums, arenas, coliseums, auditoriums, grandstands, event venues, dance halls, concert halls, amphitheaters, gymnasiums, chambers, assemblies, nightclubs, performing arts centers, parks, racetracks, and similar events and mass gatherings.] The definition of gathering excludes individuals performing or assisting with military, healthcare, public safety, or emergency response operations. A gathering does not include normal operations of schools and higher education institutions or religious activities or services.

Section 4(B) requires that gatherings, as defined above, be subject to the following restrictions:

  • The total attendance shall not exceed 50% of the location's occupancy limit or 250 persons, whichever is less.
  • All attendees must wear face coverings.
  • Sale and consumption of beer, wine and alcoholic liquor is prohibited between the hours of 11 p.m. and 10 a.m.
  • The parties responsible for a gathering shall take reasonable steps to comply with all applicable sanitation, social distancing and hygiene guidelines promulgated by the CDC, DHEC, or any other state or federal public health officials.

Sections 4(D) and (F) authorize the SC Department of Commerce to interpret this section, to create regulations and guidelines, and to provide clarifications or answer specific questions.

Section 4(G) provides that the section does not apply to official business or meetings of agencies and departments of the state or any political subdivision (including public schools and higher education institutions and the conduct of elections).

Sale of Alcohol After 11 p.m. (Section 5)

Section 5(B) prohibits the sale or consumption of beer, wine or alcoholic liquor on licensed premises between the hours of 11 p.m. and 10 a.m. for the duration of the state of emergency unless otherwise modified, amended, extended, or rescinded by subsequent order.

Section 5(C) provides that the order does not limit the hours of sales for off-premises consumption, which continue to be governed by existing law.

Sections 5(D) and (G) provide for enforcement and directs SC DOR and the SC Law Enforcement Division to enforce this section. Noncompliance by a licensee with the section is grounds for suspension of a license or permit.

Regulatory Flexibility (Sections 6 and 7)

Sections 6 and 7 provide for state-level waivers of certain existing regulations that set forth procedures for conduct of state business if strict compliance would impede action in coping with the emergency. The suspended regulations include, among others, those relating to procurement and to certificate of need review for certain healthcare matters.

Curbside Pickup of Alcohol (Section 8)

Section 8 suspends regulations that prohibit the sale of beer or wine to anyone who remains in a motor vehicle during the transaction; orders SC DOR to interpret the laws to allow 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.

Continuity of Essential Government Operations (Section 9)

Section 9(A) directs that all nonessential state employees shall not report to work, physically or in person, until further notice.

Section 9(B) prohibits local governments from closing any facility that is occupied or used by any agency, department, official or employee of the state.

Public Beach Access Points (Section 10)

Section 10 authorizes units of government that have jurisdiction and control over any public beach access points to close or restrict use of such access points, including adjacent or associated public parking lots or facilities. Section 10 further authorizes SC DHEC to issue additional or supplemental guidance, rules, regulations or restrictions regarding the application of the section.

Unemployment Benefits and Support Payments (Sections 11 and 12)

Sections 11 and 12 of the order reaffirm and extend provisions from earlier orders that waived unemployment waiting periods and allowed voluntary support payments for workers affected by the pandemic. In particular, the order 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 the SC Department of Employment and Workforce, the voluntary payments will not be considered wages and will not reduce unemployment benefits.

Emergency Measures to Facilitate Law Enforcement Assistance and Support (Section 13)

Section 13 authorizes law enforcement agencies to enter into mutual aid agreements in connection with the pandemic and waives the requirement that such agreements be in writing.

Enforcement (Section 14)

Section 14 generally continues the enforcement provisions contained in the rescinded, prior orders. Section 14(A) authorize all law enforcement officers "to do whatever may be deemed necessary to maintain peace and good order during the State of Emergency and to enforce the provisions of this Order."

Section 14(B) authorizes, orders, and directs all law enforcement officers to prohibit or disperse gatherings of people (unless authorized or in their homes) in groups of three or more if the official determines that such gathering poses, or could pose, a threat to public health. This provision is substantially identical to Section 1(C) of Executive Order 2020-13, which also contained the language "authorize, order, and direct."

Section 14(C) authorizes, orders, and directs state, county, and city officials to enforce the provisions of all orders related to COVID-19 in the courts of the state by injunction, court order, or other appropriate legal action. This provision has appeared in many of the prior orders, with the same mandatory enforcement language of "authorize, order, and direct."

General Provisions (Section 15)

Section 15 contains general provisions such as a disclaimer of private rights of action, a severability clause, a reservation of the right to further regulate, and an effective date and time.

Section 15(C) provides a preemption rule that if "any political subdivision of this State seeks to adopt or enforce a local ordinance, rule, regulation, or other restriction that conflicts with this Order, this Order shall supersede and preempt any such local ordinance, rule, regulation, or other restriction."