- Associated Press - Saturday, May 2, 2020

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - People in South Carolina flocked to state parks and beaches on Saturday as the state prepares to end its coronavirus stay-at-home order.

The parks were reopened Friday after more than a month, and many reported full parking lots. Picnic shelters, playgrounds and interpretive museums remain closed, and rangers required social distancing and other protective measures.

Webcams of beaches showed hundreds of people sunbathing, tossing footballs or playing in the surf along the Grand Strand on Saturday, a day after hotels along the beach were allowed to reopen for people with existing reservations.

But the number of cases keeps climbing. South Carolina reported 226 additional COVID-19 cases on Saturday, for a total of nearly 6,500. Eleven more people have died, bringing the state’s pandemic death toll to at least 267, the Department of Health and Environmental Control said.

It was the third time this week more than 200 new cases have been reported in one day.

For most people, this coronavirus, to which humans have no natural immunity, causes mild or moderate symptoms. For some, it can cause severe illness such as pneumonia, or even death.

South Carolina is also starting to see hot spots in the state prisons. Thirty-one inmates are infected with COVID-19, all at either Allendale Correctional Institution or the Kirkland Correctional Institution, where all new inmates are brought, according to the Corrections Department.

The infected inmates have been isolated and prison officials are asking the National Guard to help their workers with the medical checks including temperature being conducted on 1,600 inmates to reduce the spread, prison officials said.

Elsewhere in South Carolina, restaurants prepared to begin serving people in outdoor dining areas Monday, as long as tables are at least 8 feet (2.4 meters) apart, parties are limited to eight people and strict sanitation guidelines are followed.

Gov. Henry McMaster’s order limiting people to travel only to work, family or essential businesses like grocery stores ends Monday. Dine-in restaurants and close contact businesses like barber shops and gyms remain closed, along with playgrounds and nightclubs.

“We have a lot of people saying we are going too fast. Others say we are going to slow. I think we are doing it just right,” McMaster said Friday.


Follow AP coverage of the virus outbreak at https://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak.

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