Billy Keyserling

Coronavirus update: Beaufort can and must be better, please


Ignoring social distancing order puts our entire community at risk


Hello Beaufort and friends, I hope all are faring well. I am physically fine and am protecting myself (and others I might otherwise spend time with) by limiting physical contact to my girlfriend, key city staff, my Vespa and my small boat.

But I must say my mind is boggled by what I see happening around the world, including our special hometown. Following selfish whims, by refusing to respect others, some of us are putting our community at even greater risk, conceivably extending – rather than ending – the health risk of the COVID-19 novel coronavirus.

A Water Festival-like party Saturday on the sandbar set me off because it demonstrates seemingly selfish people’s disregard for the health and safety of themselves, their families, friends and others. It reminded me of the thousands of students (and others) who, foolishly thinking they are not at risk because of their age, flocked to the beaches until the beaches were forced to be closed and off limits.

Unfortunately, because people did not show restraint, we have been forced to reach out to the S.C. Department of Natural Resources and the Governor’s office seeking enforcement of the social distancing order. This takes resources from other necessary functions, puts our public safety personnel at risk and requires financial resources more usefully deployed to other pressing needs.

I know we can do better. Believe me, the stakes could not be higher.

The human suffering could not be higher. 

The economic consequences to businesses and those they have to lay off and those being laid off could not be higher.

The financial stains of limited local and state government and our hard working staff could not be higher.

Our individual personal and financial conditions, which are already strained for many Lowcountry residents, are at risk.

The risks of medical, public safety, law enforcement, and first responders could not be higher.

We have already temporarily lost the service of four first responders in our small city fire department who, due to exposure while transporting a patient, have been quarantined, thereby putting extra strain, and risk of exposure on their co-workers and their families. The fast-traveling virus can only be contained by social distancing.

As a community, we know the benefits of working together to find a common good and we do it almost every day to maintain the special place we call home. We must rise to the even greater challenge by thinking and acting beyond immediate gratification.

Five cities have mandated lock ins. We don’t want to have to go there, but the behavior of some is forcing this consideration.

If we don’t change our behavior, the President and Governor will be forced to require us to do what we know is best and can do without force.

Please don’t be misled and think this is just a problem only for medical professionals. Yes, they can treat those who fall ill.

But it is our job to stop the pandemic by social distancing.

The President and others have referred to this as a war. During a war, in whatever ways we can, we must enlist and pitch in – or else be drafted – to join the fight. I can assure you that staying home is the best way to contribute, to do your part, to win this war.

If we all do that, we can starve the virus, suck the oxygen from its existence, and it will starve and die.

Billy Keyserling is the mayor of the City of Beaufort.

Editor’s note: This column was taken with permission from City of Beaufort Mayor Billy Keyserling’s regular email newsletter.

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