COLUMBIA - All state parks in South Carolina are closing Wednesday and Thursday as officials figure out and implement new policies to help control the spread of the coronavirus.
Most of the 47 state parks across South Carolina were busier than usual during the weekend with a combination of nice spring weather and people who wanted to get outdoors after a week of social distancing from COVID-19.
But that led to lines at fee booths and large groups congregating in some places that had to be broken up by police.
The parks plan to reopen Friday, the South Carolina Department of Parks, Recreation & Tourism said in a statement. There could be new rules on admission and other policies that will be announced later, officials said.
About three-quarters of South Carolina's 46 counties have at least one COVID-19 case. Laurens County is the most populous county without a case reported. Cases have now been reported both at Fort Jackson near Columbia and Shaw Air Force Base in Sumter.
The state had nearly 300 coronavirus cases as of Monday afternoon's daily update, according to the Department of Health and Environmental Control. Five deaths have been reported.
The virus causes only minor flu-like symptoms in most people, who recover in a matter of weeks. But it is highly contagious and can cause severe illness or death in some, particularly the elderly and those with underlying health problems. Severe cases are often only able to breathe with respirators.
South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster signed an executive order Monday allowing law enforcement to break up groups of three or more. Local sheriffs Tuesday echoed the governor's insistence they would use discretion and not go around patrolling for groups.
"This directive is concentrated towards individuals who might pose a health risk and are purposely disregarding the dangers of COVID-19," Greenvile County Sheriff Hobart Lewis said in a statement.
To help its customers economically hurt by the virus, a South Carolina utility is giving back security deposits.
The Berkeley Electric Cooperative calls it a "pandemic stimulus" and said in a statement it will return $4.8 million in fees paid when electric service is started to its nearly 34,000 customers.
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