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Some Grand Strand businesses temporarily close amid coronavirus fears, others make adjustments

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Some Grand Strand businesses are temporarily closing amid concerns over the coronavirus.  

Others remain open but are taking additional precautions such as extra cleaning or limiting customers to drive-thru orders or takeout. 

And for grocery stores, well, it's a busy time.

“We’ve been selling like crazy Saturday and Sunday,” said Pam Bachmann, a night manager at Myrtle Beach’s Piggly Wiggly. She said many customers have come from neighboring North Carolina, saying their stores have run low on supplies. Local shoppers have loaded up on toilet paper and water, along with other goods such as pizza, Ramen noodles and canned goods.

The store, which has been cleaning carts and washing registers among other measures, was nearly out of meat Sunday afternoon.

That same day, Gov. Henry McMaster ordered all schools and colleges in the state to close for the remainder of the month. Horry County and several Grand Strand cities have each declared a state of emergency, clearing the way for them to shut down public facilities and restructure staffing.

So far, 28 people in the state have tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by coronavirus. On Sunday morning, Myrtle Beach’s Grand Strand Medical Center announced a patient there had a confirmed case, the first in Horry County. By that afternoon, state officials had confirmed three COVID-19 cases in Horry.

During McMaster's news conference Sunday, the governor was asked if he would follow the lead of officials in other parts of the country who have closed bars and restaurants.

"Everything is under consideration," McMaster said. "We are not at that point at this time."

However, McMaster recommended that the public avoid gatherings of 100 or more people. 

"That is a recommendation and a very strong suggestion at this point," he said. "This is a fluid situation. This is something we have not seen before. Nobody in the country has seen it before. So there will be changes and adjustments as we go forward."

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention went further Sunday, issuing a recommendation that the public avoid gatherings of 50 or more people (i.e. weddings, parades, conferences, festivals and conferences) for the next eight weeks.

On the Grand Strand, dinner theaters such as Pirates Voyage and Medieval Times have temporarily shut their doors.

"It’s not fear, it’s respect and common sense," Medieval Times CEO Perico Montaner wrote in a statement on the company's website. "Our decision to temporarily close down comes from our conscience and goodwill towards our team members, guests and community. We will cease operations as recommended by our local governments until they feel it is safe to start up again. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause, but rest assured we will come back stronger."

Although many public events have been cancelled or postponed, the spread of the virus has not completely stopped vacationers from coming here.

That includes Charleston vacationers Jamal Bryant and Shadana Finley, who both decided to take a spur-of-the-moment trip to the city, browsing stores with plans to visit The Original Benjamin's Calabash Seafood and some attractions before returning home.

While the couple acknowledged the virus, noting they have children and making sure to wash their hands and take other measures, the pair said they weren’t too concerned.

“Both of us feel as if we can get it anywhere we go, so there’s no need to live in fear about the situation,” Bryant said of the virus. “Go ahead and live your life.”

Benjamin Lawson, kitchen manager at boardwalk staple Oceanfront Bar and Grill, said the business has seen noticeably high sales in recent days, particularly during the daytime.

“[We’ve had] some of the best days,” he said, also noting the boulevard area has seen ample traffic.

Despite the number of virus cases in South Carolina growing, management at Pier 14 Restaurant & Lounge reported decent patronage this weekend. While things were a tad slower Sunday afternoon, which the eatery said could be due to weather, the day wasn’t dissimilar to a typical Sunday this time of the year.

Like other establishments, the restaurant has made sure to wipe surfaces constantly and has plenty of hand sanitizer and alcohol swabs on deck.

Along with emergency declarations, the virus has also led to event postponements and cancellations. The city of North Myrtle Beach decided to cancel its St. Patrick’s Day parade and festival that was set to begin Saturday morning.

The cancellation could have meant more festival goers ambling about Surfside Drive in Surfside Beach, which held their annual barbecue festival that day. Vendors reported high foot traffic, though Brad Cannon with Smoking Down South said the Aynor-based business may not have sold as much barbecue this year compared to 2019's festival, having prepared extra meals.

“If you ain’t got it, you can’t sell it,” he said.

Buoys on The Boulevard owner Weldon Boyd called the cancellation of the North Myrtle Beach festivities a "substantial blow" to Main Street businesses shortly after the city’s announcement, worrying about what he’d have to do with the extra food.

General Manager Nicole Breece said on Sunday though that the eatery has still done “really well” despite the cancellation, with many still choosing to hit the town and celebrate.

“At the minute, we’re still thriving,” she said. “We’re very pleased with how much the locals are coming out [and supporting] all the businesses. … I feel pleased and blessed with the turnout.”

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