Gov. Henry McMaster speaks during a meeting of the Accelerate SC economy initiative in Columbia, S.C., Tuesday, May 19, 2020. (Tracy Glantz/The State via AP)

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — Bowling alleys can now reopen in South Carolina after being closed for nearly three months to reduce the risk of coronavirus infections, even though the state's COVID-19 caseload is seeing its biggest increases since the pandemic began.

Gov. Henry McMaster issued a seventh state of emergency declaration Thursday, lifting any virus-related restrictions on the number of people inside stores and opening bowling alleys.

The guidelines suggest that operators ask bowlers to bring their own balls and shoes, use only every other lane to maintain social distancing, make hand sanitizer available and put disinfectant on surfaces bowlers could touch.

The additional relaxing of COVID-19 restrictions comes even though the virus continues to spread in South Carolina, which set another state record Friday with 770 new COVID-19 infections reported. South Carolina has reported 593 deaths, according to the Department of Health and Environmental Control.

Fewer tests are being conducted, with more positive results. The average rate of positive tests was at 14% on Friday and has been above 12% for a good chunk of this month. Officials said 512 people were hospitalized with the virus Friday, which was also still climbing.

The state has reported nearly 17,200 COVID-19 cases.

McMaster has said the onus of stopping the spread is now on individuals who should wear masks, practice social distancing and wash hands. He said the state can't shut down businesses and require people to stay home again.

“We cannot keep businesses closed forever,” McMaster said Wednesday. “Even in this situation, when we are still faced with a deadly virus, we must accelerate our economy.”

The governor can only issue a state of emergency for 15-day increments. Some members of the General Assembly have said the law requires the governor to consult them after each increment, but McMaster said he doesn't have to do that because each declaration is distinct and different.


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