Ruta Smith file photo

Charleston City Council passed a citywide stay at home ordinance at a council meeting on March 24. The proposal will last for 14 days, Tecklenburg said at a livestreamed press conference Tuesday, and begin Wednesday night at midnight.

“With yesterday’s announcement that the COVID-19 pandemic has officially reached the acceleration phase in our state, we must now take even more dramatic action,” Tecklenburg added. There are currently over 300 cases of COVID-19 in South Carolina, 36 in Charleston County.

The ordinance will require “non-essential businesses” to close and will direct citizens to stay at home unless making necessary trips to the grocery store, the pharmacy, or other essential services.
[content-1] All city services, including police and fire assistance, are still active, the mayor reminded attendants at the press conference.

Tecklenburg also ordered the temporary closure of all city parks and playgrounds, joining the long list of facilities shuttered due to COVID-19.

Council passed the ordinance in a 9-4 vote. “I know this is very painful to a lot of business owners that right now can’t move forward and do what they need to do,” councilman Kevin Shealy said at Tuesday’s council meeting. “But, I believe we’ve got to do whatever we can to shorten that time period.”

Councilwoman Marie Delcioppo voted against the measure, citing her concern that the city is moving ahead of the state. She also argued that labeling businesses as “essential” and “non-essential” is subjective. “I feel like this is way jumping the gun and putting us in a position that is going to be very, very hard to manage and come back from,” she said at the meeting.

In a statement on Tuesday, Charleston County Council Chairman Elliott Summey said the county was not considering similar measures.

“Charleston County does not have any immediate plans to follow course in the unincorporated areas of the County. The Governor, through Executive Order, has not allowed such action,” Summey said. “Therefore, the County will continue to follow the State’s mandates in response to the coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic.”

DHEC announced on Monday that in S.C., coronavirus has reached its acceleration phase, the period building up to the disease’s peak. Attempts to “flatten the curve,” or stop COVID-19’s acceleration phase from skyrocketing, have led to closures of restaurant dining rooms, schools, and city buildings. An order from Governor Henry McMaster on March 13 allows law enforcement to, at their discretion, break up groups of three or more outside of a home.

“Charleston is facing thousands of deaths — most of them unnecessary — if we don’t stop the spread of this virus,” Tecklenburg said at a press conference before Tuesday’s meeting. “This moment — with the pandemic still in the earliest part of the acceleration phase — is our last, best chance to keep that tragedy from happening.”

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