S.C. Gov. McMaster announces ‘Palmetto Priority Pledge’ restaurant safety initiative amid coronavirus pandemic

SC restaurants to display 'health seal' decal

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WBTV) - South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster was joined by state leaders of the hospitality industry to announce the “Palmetto Priority Pledge”, a new restaurant safety initiative amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“We are disappointed with the lack of compliance with recommendations, concerning wearing masks and social distancing,” Gov. McMaster said.

The announcement comes a little more than a month after the South Carolina governor announced the executive order that allowed restaurants to limit dine-in services due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Palmetto Priority initiative encourages restaurants to follow federal and state health regulations, such as staff wearing masks and tables and menus sanitized after each customer visit.

It is an initiative brought together by the S.C. Restaurant and Lodging Association, the state Department of Health and Environmental Control, and S.C. Parks, Recreation and Tourism department.

“Palmetto Priority is a formal commitment made by South Carolina restauranteurs to provide a clean and safe environment for their staff and customers to demonstrate real precautions that they are taking to prevent the spread of COVID-19,” according to the initiative’s website.

Restaurants who follow the guidelines and are found to be in compliance will be given a decal to put into their windows, McMaster said.

The pledge provides a decal for restaurants that have passed safety tests to comply with COVID-19 related requirements. Safety precautions include wearing masks and social distancing, among several other things.

Restaurants with the decal, placed on their front doors, reflect that employees are following training requirements and wearing masks. This is after restaurants complete online training and have a DHEC inspection.

According to the governor, customers can report restaurants that are not in compliance by going to the Palmetto Priority website.

Restaurants will lose that seal if they’re found to not be in compliance four times, McMaster said.

The governor stressed that if customers see that a restaurant doesn’t have a Palmetto Priority seal, “go somewhere else.”

“If they have this seal, and you see these requirements are not being met, you can go on the internet and bring that up to the authority,” Gov. McMaster said.

According to palmettopriority.com, restaurants must agree to the following priorities to protect their employees and customers and demonstrating leadership in safe sanitation practices with all employees on every shift:

  • All employees will be trained on appropriate cleaning and disinfection, hand hygiene, proper face covering and respiratory etiquette
  • Post required signage advising customers not to enter if symptomatic
  • Appropriate signage to promote social distancing and walking traffic patterns
  • Select one person per shift to be in charge of safety and sanitation during the shift, observing and ensuring that hand washing is done appropriately, and sanitation of dining room areas, restrooms, lobbies and door areas is done regularly and consistently (minimum of hourly).
  • Signs reminding of hand hygiene and proper hand-washing posted for customers and staff
  • Execute the restaurants plan to clean and disinfect common areas and surfaces regularly using chemicals appropriate for COVID-19 disinfection
  • Health safety checks for all employees before each shift
  • Each employee is required to wear a face-covering (i.e., cloth or paper face coverings, face masks, full face shields)
  • Hand sanitizing stations will be available to all customers and employees, including upon entry
  • Parties will maintain at least 6 feet of distance from other parties at all times, except when seated at tables or booths with partitions.
  • Only provide condiments (consider using PC products when appropriate), silverware, flatware, glassware, or other traditional tabletop items upon service/request. When the table is unoccupied all items should be removed
  • Tables are cleaned and disinfected in between seating
  • Self-service items such as buffets or drink stations are eliminated unless an attendant is provided to serve those items to guests or to supervise the use of gloves by the patrons
  • Menus are available digital, single-use or disinfected between guests

“This will be a program and effort that will produce the desired result, and it will work,” McMaster said.

South Carolina health officials are reporting nearly 900 new coronavirus cases, as the state has more than 800 people hospitalized with the virus.

On Tuesday, officials announced 890 new confirmed coronavirus cases after reporting 1,000 new cases three times in the previous four days

There are now 26,572 confirmed cases statewide. The state also confirmed 14 additional deaths, bringing the death toll to 673.

Of the 7,575 inpatient beds currently used in South Carolina, 824 are occupied by patients who have either tested positive or are under investigation for COVID-19.

The percent positive is 17.4%.

South Carolina health officials have set a new goal of testing about 165,000 residents for coranavirus each month, which is up about 55,000 from its May goal. Health officials said the goal increased to 140,000 for June, and it will be 165,000 tests conducted per month for the rest of the year.

“The increases that we’re seeing serve as a warning that young adults and youth are not immune to COVID-19,” said Dr. Brannon Traxler, DHEC physician consultant. “They also tell us that younger South Carolinians are not taking social distancing seriously.”

Since April 4, data from the agency shows that there had been a 413.9% increase in newly reported COVID-19 cases among the 21-30 age group, and a 966.1% increase in newly reported COVID-19 cases among the 11-20 age group.

New S.C COVID-19 data
New S.C COVID-19 data (Source: SC DHEC)

This data follows national trends that indicate a growing number of young adults and youth being confirmed to have COVID-19.

“While it is true that most youth and younger adults with COVID-19 only experience a mild illness, that is not true for all,” Traxler said. “In addition, it’s important to remember that even with mild or no symptoms you can spread the disease to those around you – your friends, teammates, and family. We’re calling on our younger generation of South Carolinians to be leaders in their communities by taking actions to stop the spread of COVID-19. Lead by example and use your voice to let others know that social distancing and wearing a mask in public helps save lives.”

“Every one of us has a role to play in stopping COVID-19,” Epidemiologist Dr. Linda Bell said. “This virus does not spread on its own. It’s spread around our state by infected people who carry it wherever they go – their work, the supermarket, the post office, a friend’s house. By not following public health precautions, many are putting all at risk.”

Bell urges people in South Carolina to wear face coverings when out in public.

She also said that the number of new cases shows that the virus is still very much active in the state.

“We understand that what we’re continuing to ask of everyone is not easy and that many are tired of hearing the same warnings and of taking the same daily precautions, but this virus does not take a day off,” Bell said. “Every day that we don’t all do our part, we are extending the duration of illnesses, missed work, hospitalizations and deaths in our state.

“There is no vaccine for COVID-19. There are only individual behaviors and actions we must all maintain that help stop its spread.”

  • A confirmed case is an individual who had a confirmatory viral test performed by way of a throat or nose swab and that specimen tested positive for SARS-CoV-2, which is the virus that causes COVID-19. A positive viral test, also called a PCR test or molecular test, alone is enough to classify a confirmed case.
  • A probable case is an individual who has not had a confirmatory viral test performed but has epidemiologic evidence and clinical evidence of infection, or a positive antibody blood test and either epidemiologic evidence or clinical evidence.
  • A confirmed death is someone whose death is related to COVID-19 and who tested positive with a confirmatory viral test for COVID-19.
  • A probable death is an individual whose death certificate lists COVID-19 disease or SARS-CoV-2 as a cause of death or a significant condition contributing to death but did not undergo confirmatory viral testing.

A new webpage provides information about probable cases and deaths and will be updated to reflect the most current CDC recommendations for reporting this new information.

“As the number of tests being performed increases, so do the number of cases, we would expect that,” Dr. Joan Duwve, with DHEC, said. “However, that percent positive rate continues to increase, as well, which tells us that we are finding more real cases -- not just cases that were asymptomatic and not otherwise diagnosed.”

Since the state has mostly reopened, and Gov. Henry McMaster has stated lockdowns will not return, Duwve stressed the importance of people taking action to fight the spread of COVID-19.

The two things people can do are simple: social distance and wear a mask. Duwve said people just aren’t doing that, and that’s why cases are spiking.

“We all have work to do,” she said. “We need to lead by example.”

She said at this point in the outbreak, each person diagnosed will likely infect between two to four other people.

“So we will continue to see that rapid rise until we start practicing what we know can prevent the spread of this infection,” Duwve explained.

There is still a significant risk of being exposed to the COVID-19 virus in a public setting in any community. To reduce the spread, health officials advise everyone to take following precautions:

  • Maintain social distancing by staying at least 6 feet away from others
  • Wear a cloth mask that covers your nose and mouth while in public
  • Avoid touching frequently touched items
  • Regularly wash your hands
  • Monitor for symptoms and stay home when sick

People should stay home and get tested for the coronavirus if they have any of the following symptoms:

  • fever
  • shortness of breath
  • headaches
  • sore throat
  • loss of smell
  • vomiting, nausea and/or diarrhea

For the latest information about bed utilization rates, testing, telehealth options and more, you can visit scdhec.gov/COVID-19. DHEC’s interactive maps were updated to include the latest confirmed and estimated COVID-19 cases by county and ZIP code.

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