By Mindy Lucas
Beaufort’s city leaders want you to stay home as much as possible.
So much so, that on Monday, April 6, city council members passed an emergency ordinance directing residents to shelter in place despite having no authority to make residents stay at home.
While council members acknowledged they could not make people stay at home, members hoped to put into official language the critical nature of Beaufort’s situation.
“We are concerned because we are seeing a rapid growth in our county,” said Beaufort City Manager Bill Prokop.
While Beaufort County is fourth in the state with the number of positive cases, it is No. 2 in terms of the number of cases per percentage of population, Beaufort Mayor Billy Keyserling said.
At its March 31 city council meeting, Prokop said while many residents were staying at home and observing social distancing, there were many more who were not.
“We still have those who have not taken this virus as a serious medical issue and continue to ignore our requests to follow the guidelines,” he said.
Prokop said there were children playing in groups of 10 to 15 on playgrounds in city parks, as well as older siblings watching younger children as young as 5.
“They really don’t know what social distancing is. We, the city, cannot be babysitters,” he said.
Following S.C. Gov. Henry McMaster’s executive order on Tuesday, March 31, which closed all non-essential businesses, entertainment venues and recreational and fitness facilities, the city closed its playgrounds at city parks on Wednesday, April 1.
The governor has since issued a “stay at home” order that says if residents are not going to work or on their way to a store to obtain necessary goods and services, they should stay at home.
McMaster said a violation of this order is a misdemeanor and carries 30 days in jail and/or $100 fine for each day of violation.
Beaufort’s ordinance does not prevent residents from being in their yards, or from walking or bicycling in their neighborhoods or getting exercise outdoors, council members noted, but if going out residents should continue to stay six feet apart.
The ordinance was approved unanimously with council members adding comment.
“This is unprecedented and this is about saving lives,” said councilwoman Nan Sutton. “I want everyone to remember that if one of your family members gets sick and has to go to the hospital, you do not get to go into the hospital with them.”