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BEAUFORT, S.C. – Beaufort City Council passed an emergency ordinance Monday directing residents within the City to shelter in place for the duration of the City’s emergency declaration, except to go out for essential activities, beginning at 1 a.m. April 7.
The ordinance reinforces Gov. Henry McMaster’s executive orders last week that ordered non-essential businesses closed, ranging from hair salons to fitness studios to department stores.
City Council members acknowledged that they did not have the authority to “keep people in their house” but they believed that the severity of the coronavirus spread in Beaufort County made it important for Council to urge via official language that people stay at home. “Before you leave your house, ask yourself, is this really essential,” said Councilman Stephen Murray. If the answer is no, stay put, he added.
“This is unprecedented. This is about saving lives,” said Councilwoman Nan Sutton. “If one of your family members gets sick, you do not get to go into the hospital with them.”
“The one thing we do know about this virus,” said Mayor Billy Keyserling, “is that people like each of us have the power to arrest this virus by staying out of its way.”
As of April 5, Beaufort County had 156 confirmed cases of COVID-19, one of the highest per-capita rates in the State of South Carolina. “We are seeing rapid growth in the county,” said City Manager Bill Prokop.
The ordinance does not prevent people from going out to their yards or neighborhoods or City parks for walks, bike rides, and other forms of exercise, as long as social distancing (keeping six feet away from others besides immediate family) is observed.
It also does not prevent anyone from going to grocery stores, hardware stores, or pharmacies, although residents are urged to keep visits to a minimum, and if possible, have one person from a household do the shopping.
It also does not prevent anyone from going to work, unless a business has been deemed by Gov. McMaster to be non-essential and has already closed. However, employers are urged to allow as many employees as possible to work from home.
The ordinance gives the Beaufort police officers and code inspectors the ability to issue a civil citation if they observe non-compliance.
View Council meeting