Joe Cunningham joins list of SC officials urging McMaster to issue stay-at-home order
BY JOSEPH BUSTOS MARCH 30, 2020 03:26 PM
U.S. Rep. Joe Cunningham, D-Charleston, is calling on Gov. Henry McMaster to issue a stay-at-home order in South Carolina. Cunningham, the congressman who represents the state’s Lowcountry 1st District, recently tested positive for COVID-19 and has been in self-quarantine. He is the only member of the state’s congressional delegation to test positive for the coronavirus. He is one of 925 people in South Carolina to test positive for the coronavirus as of Monday afternoon. So far 18 people with COVID-19 have died in in the state. Cunningham said McMaster’s inaction has caused confusion in local communities. “Due to the legal uncertainty of local municipalities’ authority to issue stay-at-home orders for their residents, my constituents and local leaders are confused about the accessibility of our cities and beaches,” Cunningham said. “And residents of these areas are rightfully concerned about the potential spread of COVID-19 in their communities.” McMaster has been resistant to a statewide order, saying he’ll issue a stay-at-home policy only if it becomes necessary. He added during his news conference on Thursday that he believed South Carolinians to follow the rules. “If you will notice the things we have asked them to do, they are doing and they are doing (them) very well,” McMaster during the news conference. Cunningham is the latest lawmaker and highest ranking legislator from South Carolina to call for a stay-at-home order. State legislators who also have called on the governor to issue an order include Republican State Reps. Neal Collins and Gary Clary, both of Pickens County; Democratic state Sens. Mia McLeod, of Richland, and Marlon Kimpson, of Charleston; and state Rep. Mandy Powers Norrell, of Lancaster. “All we need to do is glance at the numbers, the science, and the data which projects almost 3,000 confirmed positive cases by next week and over 8,000 a few weeks later,” McLeod wrote in a letter to McMaster. “And it’s easy to see why people are scared or panicked. Sadly, those numbers are probably conservative, since SC doesn’t have nearly enough tests or the infrastructure to read and process the tests we do have.” State Sen. Dick Harpootlian, D-Richland, said a stay at home order would help would help save lives. “We’re at a fork in the road,” Harpootlian said. “We can take the path of South Korea, which shut down coronavirus fairly quickly, or we can go the way of Italy where more than 10,000 died and the country was paralyzed.” Clary and Collins wrote a letter to the governor to encourage him to order people to stay at home saying people are still congregating. “We think we need to be doing more if we’re going to get ahead of this pandemic,” Clary said in an interview on Monday. North Carolina also has issued a stay-at-home order. And a change.org petition is gathering signatures to encourage McMaster to issue a stay-at-home order. McMaster has ordered a few aspects of a stay-at-home order. He has ordered law enforcement to break up groups of three or more people if they believe the group is a risk to public health. He has ordered anyone coming into the Palmetto State from COVID-19 hot spots New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, or New Orleans, to self-quarantine for 14 days upon arriving to ensure the don’t spread the virus, if they have been infected. He also has closed all dine-in services at restaurants and bars, limiting them to takeout, curbside and delivery. State Attorney General Alan Wilson raised questions of the legality of stay-at-home ordinances in cities’ such as Columbia, and Charleston. Wilson’s office argued that only a governor, not municipalities, can order evacuations during a state of emergency. However, Wilson said Monday his office would not sue any city trying to protect its citizens during the ongoing health emergency. Reporter John Monk contributed to this article.