The city of Charleston, South Carolina has seen a lot of history over the years – including its fair share of epidemics – but in modern times it has not seen anything quite like the 2019-2020 coronavirus. In response to escalating concerns over the spread of this virus, Holy City officials on Tuesday announced an effective lockdown.
The edict, if approved, would apply to all businesses … well, with the exception of grocery stores, pharmacies and medical facilities. And a few others deemed “essential.”
The announcement – similar to edicts issued in Charlotte, Savannah and other large municipalities in the nation – was made by mayor John Tecklenburg at 2:30 p.m. EDT on Tuesday, March 24, 2020. Tecklenburg said he was moved to propose the restrictions – which were scheduled for a vote before city council later in the afternoon – in response to the latest statewide data on the virus released by the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control (SCDHEC) yesterday afternoon.
That data showed nearly 300 statewide cases of the virus, including 31 in Charleston. Also, the data exceeded internal government projections exclusively reported by this news outlet last week – which called for 282 total cases at this point in the evolution of the outbreak.
“With yesterday’s announcement by DHEC that the COVID-19 pandemic has officially reached the acceleration phase in our state, we must now take even more dramatic action to stop the spread here in Charleston while there’s still time to save thousands of lives by flattening the curve,” Tecklenburg said. “With that in mind, I am today ordering the temporary closure of all city parks and playgrounds, and will tonight introduce a citywide stay at home ordinance for emergency action by our city council. This ordinance would close non-essential businesses and direct citizens to stay at home except for necessary trips to the grocery store, the pharmacy or for other essential activities.”
Council is expected to vote on Tecklenburg’s resolution at a 5:00 p.m. EDT meeting.
The city-wide lockdown would remain in effect for fourteen days (i.e. through April 7, 2020) – unless officials determined conditions warranted it being lifted prior to that time.
“For the past several weeks, governments and residents across our state have been working to slow the onset of the coronavirus pandemic here in South Carolina,” he said. “Schools and city public buildings have been closed. Bars and restaurants have stopped serving onsite. Large gatherings have been banned, and citizens have been urged to stay home, stay distanced and stay smart.”
Worth noting? In addition to making trips for food, medicine or medical attention or other “essential travel,” residents are also allowed to continue going outdoors for exercise – or to walk their pets.
However, the state has issued a ban on gatherings of more than three people – which Tecklenburg said municipal authorities will be enforcing.
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According to the mayor, the edict “falls under the city’s broad emergency authority to protect public health and safety during times of emergency.”
“Three of the four largest cities in our state sit side-by-side here in the Lowcountry, with a total population in the hundreds of thousands,” he said. “We cannot and must not allow this deadly, highly contagious disease to spread uncontrolled among our residents.”
As of Tuesday afternoon, a total of 49,619 Americans had contracted coronavirus – including an astounding 25,600 cases in the state of New York, according to a database compiled by The New York Times.
A total of 615 Americans had died from the virus.
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