Non-essential businesses to close in SC, NC utility cut-offs prohibited: TLC COVID-19 update

By DEUCE NIVEN

tribdeuce@tabor-loris.com

     Executive orders from governors in Columbia and Raleigh Tuesday will impact life in the Tabor-Loris Community (TLC), with non-essential businesses in South Carolina ordered to close effective Wednesday, a 60-day prohibition on utility cutoffs in North Carolina effective immediately.

     Those orders came just ahead of the report of five additional COVID-19 cases in Horry County, bringing the total to 37 with three deaths; and of an announcement from President Donald Trump extending federal safety guidelines in place because of the coronavirus outbreak to April 30.

     There have been no new confirmed COVID-19 cases in Columbus County since Saturday, when the first three were reported.

     This post will cover these topics and will be updated:

  • Non-essential businesses ordered closed in SC
  • Governor prohibits utility cut-offs in NC
  • Horry follows state’s lead
  • Chamber tracks Loris businesses
  • Stay-at-home impact limited
  • No curfew for Tabor City
  • Positive result for pastor’s wife

Non-essential businesses ordered closed in SC

     Governor Henry McMaster, in an afternoon news conference, said South Carolina has “taken a lot of good steps” in responding to the COVID-19 threat. “I have a lot of faith in the people of South Carolina. They are doing very well, following instructions.”

     His latest Executive Order orders “non-essential businesses” to close effective April 1. McMaster said he would not follow the lead of some states, with a long-list of “essential businesses” allowed to remain open, instead opting for a more specific list of businesses that are non-essential and/or pose health and safety risks because their nature make social distancing rules difficult or impossible.

     Businesses ordered closed by the order fall into three broad categories:

  • Entertainment venues and facilities – Night clubs, bowling alleys, arcades, concert venues, theaters, auditoriums, performing arts centers, Bingo halls, children’s play areas (excluding daycare facilities) are included in that list.
  • Recreational and athletic facilities and activities – Fitness and exercise centers, commercial gyms, spas, public and commercial swimming pools, group exercise facilities, spectator sports, and sports where social distancing rules are difficult or impossible, are included in that list.
  • Close-contact service providers – Barber shops and hair solons top that list, which includes waxing salons, nail salons and spas, body-art facilities and tattoo services, tanning salons, massage-therapy business and services.

     See Gov. McMasters order in full here.

     Business owners unclear if they must close, or may remain open, should complete the Essential Business Clarification form on the South Carolina Department of Commerce Website here. Questions may be sent to covid19sc@sccommerce.com, or business representatives can call 803-734-2873.

     Businesses not explicitly addressed in the governor’s order may continue to operate until a determination is made, typically within 24 hours.

Governor prohibits utility cut-offs in NC

     Recognizing that April 1 brings with it the due dates for many bills, Gov. Cooper said his order prohibiting utilities from disconnecting service to those impacted by the pandemic will give those citizens a reprieve in difficult times.

     “I know our economy has taken a hit, and so have the finances of people across North Carolina,” Gov. Cooper said.

     His order applies to electric, gas, water and wastewater services for the next 60 days, and directs those utilities to give residential customers at least six months to pay outstanding bills. Those utilities are also prohibited from collecting fees, penalties or interest for late payment.

     “Telecommunication companies that provide phone, cable and internet services are strongly urged to follow these same rules,” the governor said.

     “This action is particularly important since tomorrow is the first of the month, and I know that’s a date many families fear when they can’t make ends meet,” said Governor Cooper. “These protections will help families stay in their homes and keep vital services like electricity, water, and communications going as we Stay at Home.”

     Additionally, the Order encourages banks not to charge customers for overdraft fees, late fees and other penalties. Landlords are strongly encouraged in the Order to follow the spirit of Chief Justice Cheri Beasley’s Order and delay any evictions that are already entered in the court system.

     Governor Cooper was joined by Attorney General Josh Stein to announce the order and he thanked companies that have already voluntarily announced policies to prevent shutoffs, including Duke Energy, Dominion Energy, AT&T, and local electric co-ops, among many others.

     A copy of the Executive Order may be found here, and a FAQ about it, can be found here.

Horry follows state’s lead

     “We’re kind of in no man’s land,” Horry County Council Chairman Johnny Gardner said of the local COVID-19 response during an afternoon news conference. “The citizens are doing a good job.”

     Gardner said county leaders are encouraging people to stay home, though neither the state nor county have issues stay-at-home orders like the one in place in North Carolina since Monday.

     “If you don’t have to go out in public, don’t be in public,” Gardner said.

     There are currently no plans by county government to enact a stay-at-home order, Assistant County Administrator Randy Webster said.

     “We’re not planning anything beyond the governor’s orders,” Webster said. “We just want to be part of the big team, not to confuse people by adding or taking away from the executive orders.”

Chamber tracks Loris businesses

     Government orders and the realities of life in a pandemic has the Loris Chamber of Commerce with a new focus that reflects its long-term mission, supporting the business community.

     Chamber directors and Executive Samantha Norris, in contact with business leaders, have developed and plan to continually update a list of city businesses and their status during the crisis caused by the coronavirus COVID-19.

     “I am from Loris and have been Executive Director for more than 12 years,” Norris said. “I have dedicated my life to serving Loris.

     “Whatever our businesses need, we will do our best to serve them. We are in difficult times and we remain focused and determined to make a positive difference.”

     Chamber listings document changes in business hours and pertinent details regarding available service.

     For example:

  • Santino’s: Take-out only
  • Synovus Bank: Drive thru with services by appointment only
  • The Grind: Full menu available, to go orders via drive thru
  • Loris Eye Associates: Emergencies, eye problems and follow-up appointments only
  • Christine B. Brown Restaurant: Take-out only
  • Panchitos: Take-out only
  • China King: Closed
  • American Hero: Closed

     See the complete list here or at the chamber website here. Contact the chamber at loriscoc@sccoast.net or call 843-756-6030. – Jenn Causey

Stay-at-home impact limited

     On the first full day of Gov. Cooper’s stay-at-home order in North Carolina, it was difficult to see much difference in Tabor City.

     “Downtown looks pretty normal,” Maj. Russell Conway of the Tabor City Police Department said.

     There have been some questions about merchants remaining open, but both Conway and Chief Donald Dowless said those that were open appeared to be in compliance with the governor’s executive order and it’s permitted businesses.

     Those that remain open, Gov. Cooper reminded Tuesday, should abide by social distance guidelines and not allow groups of more than 10 people to gather.

No curfew for Tabor City

     While curfew orders have been issues for unincorporated areas of Columbus County, effective Wednesday night, and for several municipalities, they will not impact Tabor City, at least for now, Chief Dowless said.

     “Our folks in Tabor City are complying with the governor’s orders, and we’re not seeing any problems,” Dowless said. “We’ve had zero problems, and right now we don’t see the need for a curfew in Tabor City.

     Columbus County’s curfew, effective Wednesday, is from 10 p.m. through 5 a.m. In Fair Bluff the curfew is in effect from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. Exceptions include healthcare emergencies, first responders, and those traveling to and from work.

Positive result for pastor’s wife

     It took nearly two weeks, but Margo Strong of Longs finally received the results of her COVID-19 test Monday.

     It was positive, her husband Trinity Baptist Church of Conway pastor Dr. Kim Strong said Monday.

     “We assumed all along she was positive,” Dr. Strong said.

     Margo Strong has been home more than a week now, tested and treated at McLeod Seacoast and ordered to isolate at home upon her release.

     “She is getting slowly stronger,” Dr. Strong said. “We have been blessed.”

     Look for continuing coverage on local impacts from the coronavirus COVID-19 outbreak here and in the Tabor-Loris Tribune in print and online.