Gov. Henry McMaster and other officials pause to use hand sanitizer before a press conference earlier this month.

South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster on Monday ordered law enforcement to disperse public gatherings of three or more persons in response to a spike in coronavirus cases. 

Officers may act under the  executive order if they determine a gathering threatens public health. The rule does not apply to families outside together or to law-abiding businesses, according to the governor. 

The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) announced 103 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the state’s total to 298. Five people with underlying health conditions have died from the virus.

State Epidemiologist Linda Bell said at the press conference that she expects the number of coronavirus cases to accelerate in coming days. Both she and Gov. McMaster called on South Carolinians to follow public health guidelines and to practice good hygiene.

Gov. McMaster believes that if South Carolinians observe these rules, there will be no need for a shelter-in-place order, in which citizens are required to avoid all nonessential outings and stay inside as much as possible. He issued no new rules for schools or businesses at Monday’s press conference.

The governor previously ordered all public schools and universities to close through March 31 and mandated that all nonessential state employees work from home.