Dear Chamber Members,
Today’s COVID-19 business information compiled by your Greater Sumter Chamber Team includes: Governor Issues Stay-at-Home Order, General Assembly Returns For One-Day Session, CDC Issues New Guidance, Chamber Small Business Hotline
In his press conference yesterday, Governor McMaster announced that he had issued Executive Order 2020-21, putting a mandatory “Home-or-Work Order” in place beginning Today at 5:00 pm to help limit the spread of COVID-19. This new order MAKES NO CHANGES to the current list of non-essential businesses that must close. To review that list, see our previous communications here.
The Governor’s order requires that all residents and visitors in South Carolina limit their movements outside of their home, UNLESS they are engaged in Essential Business, Essential Activities, or Critical Infrastructure Operations. Additionally, the order requires retail businesses, that are not deemed non-essential, to limit customers to no more than five customers per 1,000 square feet of space or 20% of occupancy limit as determined by the fire marshal, whichever is less.
The Greater Sumter Chamber Team anticipates some questions from members about this new executive order, which we attempt to answer below.
When does the Governor’s Home-or-Work Order go into effect?
- Tomorrow, April 7th, at 5:00 pm.
How long is the Home-or-Work Order effective?
- April 7th at 5:00 pm until the State of Emergency ends.
The Governor’s order allows individuals to conduct “Essential Business.” What is this?
- An Essential Business is any business that has not been deemed “non-essential” by two previous executive orders. See bullet 5. It does NOT mean these business can’t operate, it only means they can not be open to the general public.
The Governor’s order allows individuals to conduct “Critical Infrastructure Operations.” What is this?
- Individuals operating commercial vehicles transporting essential goods and products
- Individuals are performing any essential services identified by the US Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency’s guidance, including amendments thereto, for continued critical infrastructure viability.
How is the Home-or-Work Order different for businesses than the previous executive orders?
- This order does not change the list of “non-essential” businesses that must close. Only companies classified as “non-essential” in the Governor’s previous two executive orders must close. See the full list here.
- It does require individuals to stay home UNLESS they are conducting “Essential Activities” (see below for explanation).
- Also, there are new requirements for retailers not deemed non-essential. Those stores must limit customers to no more than five customers per 1,000 square feet of space or 20% of occupancy limit as determined by the fire marshal, whichever is less.
The Governor’s order allows residents to continue to conduct “Essential Activities.” What are these activities? Read the order for a full explanation.
- Caring for or visiting family
- Obtaining necessary goods and services for household consumption and use
- Seeking medical care for persons and pets
- Engaging in outdoor recreational activities using six feet social distancing
- Attending religious services
Is there a penalty for not following this order?
- Yes. A violation of this order is a misdemeanor, punishable by a fine (up to $100) or imprisonment for up to 30 days.
Are there travel restrictions punishable by a penalty associated with the Home-or-Work Order?
- No, individuals can still travel to essential work and activities as needed. The order requires no special credentials to travel to essential work or activities at this time.
If I’m not sure whether or not I am an essential business, who can I contact?
- First, the Governor’s previous orders only close “non-essential businesses” and only those on the list, as explained in bullet three. Second, if after reviewing the list, you are still uncertain about whether your business needs to close, then you can complete the “Essential Business Clarification” form via the Department of Commerce’s website, email firstname.lastname@example.org , or call 803-775-1231. The department will review the request, and the business will receive a determination within 24 hours. Finally, the Governor’s Office clarified: “If a business is not explicitly addressed in the governor’s executive order, the business should continue normal operations until a determination is made.”
Some cities have stay-at-home ordinances in effect, like Columbia and Charleston. If I am a business in a city with a stay-at-home ordinance, what order should I follow?
- The Governor’s previous orders state that his orders “supersedes and preempts” any part of a local ordinance that conflicts with his order. If your business is required to close under a local ordinance but can stay open under the Governor’s orders, then we suggest you contact the SC Department of Commerce per bullet 4 for more clarification. Keep in mind that the SC Attorney General has issued an advisory opinion that states local stay-at-home ordinances are still valid until a court determines they violate state law. Attorney General Wilson believes state law only grants the Governor these types of emergency powers.
The SC House of Representatives and SC Senate are returning to Columbia at 1:00 pm on Wednesday, April 8th to take up two key legislative items:
- Continuing Resolution: extends funding for state government at current fiscal year levels until the General Assembly can return to pass a new budget. This resolution is needed because the General Assembly isn’t likely to meet again for the remainder of the COVID-19 crisis and, therefore, won’t be able to pass a new state budget before the fiscal year ends on June 30th.
- Sine Die Resolution: extends the legislative session past the date on which regular legislative work ends on May 14th. The Sine Die Resolution will specify when the General Assembly will return, and what specific bills it debates. At this time, we anticipate the General Assembly will return in October and take up bills that have already passed one body and crossed over, including:
- The State Budget (H.5201)
- Comprehensive Education Reform (S.419)
- Business License Tax Reform (H.4431)
Face Coverings and Masks: On Friday, the CDC recommended that Americans wear face coverings when in certain public settings. Read the details below as you consider what this means for you and your business.
- The new recommendations encourage the wearing of cloth face coverings in public settings where social distancing measures are difficult to maintain, like grocery stores and pharmacies.
- The CDC emphasized the importance of this new recommendation in areas where significant community-based COVID-19 transmission is high.
- This recommendation is considered a voluntary public health measure, and the CDC offers a primer on simple face cloths here.
- The practice of six-feet social distancing continues to be a leading technique to slow the spread of the virus. This guidance is in addition to the current interim guidance for employers and businesses offered by the CDC that updates regularly, as well as the March-issued workplace guidance prepared by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
- The CDC also notes that surgical masks and N95 respirators are critical supplies that we must reserve for the nation’s health care workforce and first responders.
Updated Return-To-Work Standards: The CDC has provided updated guidance on when a person with COVID-19 or a person exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms may discontinue home isolation and return to work.
- Previous guidance: recommends the person to self-quarantine for 14 days.
- Updated guidance: allows people to end home isolation and return to work before the previous 14-day period under certain conditions.
- Continued guidance: employers should immediately separate employees who are exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms when they arrive at work or who become sick during the day from other employees, customers, and visitors.
Chamber Small Business Hotline
The Chamber of Commerce has launched a new Small Business Hotline to answer any questions regarding the Governors Executive Orders, SBA disaster recovery programs and the Payroll Protection Program. If you have any questions about how these new orders will affect your business or anything you feel the Chamber can do for you please call Chris Hardy at 803-774-2402. This line will ring directly to me in my office, if I am unable to answer the phone please leave a message and I will return your call at the next available opportunity.
These and other resources for businesses are available on our COVID-19 website.
Have a great day,
Chris Hardy, CCE, IOM
President & CEO