South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster warned Wednesday that he will not allow high school and college football games to be played in South Carolina this fall if COVID-19 infections keep climbing.
"If these numbers continue to rise and the danger persists, I can't do it," McMaster said during a news conference. "I won't do it."
McMaster's comments came after state epidemiologist, Dr. Linda Bell, announced 24 COVID-19 deaths, the highest daily tally since the coronavirus pandemic began. She also said a record-high 1,160 COVID-19 patients are hospitalized in South Carolina.
South Carolina now has had nearly 38,000 COVID-19 cases, with a total of 759 confirmed deaths and seven probable deaths, according to the state Department of Health and Environmental Control.
While many businesses have been allowed to reopen, McMaster has yet to lift a ban on spectator sports such as football. The Republican governor said he will leave those restrictions in place unless the state's ongoing spike in COVID-19 cases is reversed.
"That means this fall will not be like other falls," he said. "We will not be able to have college football. We’ll not be able to have high school football."
The first high school games in South Carolina are set for late August. The University of South Carolina is scheduled to play its first home game on Sept. 5, with Clemson's home opener coming a week later.
Bell said Wednesday the rising wave of COVID-19 cases in South Carolina can be traced back to the Memorial Day holiday. She and other officials are worried that the July 4 weekend will only worsen the problem.
"If we don't take that action now — if we don't social distance, if we don't wear our masks — then we're going to see more of our friends, our family members, our loved ones who will continue to become ill, who will be hospitalized, and many will die," she said.