CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - Charleston city leaders are working to prepare the Holy City for any potential impacts related to the coronavirus.
Those efforts include considerations to cancel the Cooper River Bridge Run, according to Charleston’s Director of Emergency Management Shannon Scaff. He said public safety is the city’s top priority.
Charleston officials have been meeting with medical experts, other municipalities and organizers of special events.
At this time, no decision has been made to call off the 10k race that draws more than 30,000 runners and spectators to the Lowcountry each year.
It is still set to be held on April 4.
However, Scaff said any changes to one of the area’s largest events would be announced by no later than March 23.
“It would have impacts on restaurants, hospitality and hotels and others, small businesses, shopping and everything else. So, it’s going to be a tremendous impact, and that’s why we are putting so much energy into making those decisions,” Scaff said. “No one wants to have to make a decision like cancelling the bridge run. I can’t even imagine doing that. But here we are looking at the possibility of something like that. We are well aware of the impacts that’s going to have on a number of different areas for our city and Mount Pleasant, and we are very sensitive to that. That’s why we are taking the collaborative approach here to make sure everybody’s best interests are kept in mind.”
Scaff said the city has received numerous phone calls and emails from people with questions related to the coronavirus. The topics have ranged from the cruise ship industry in Charleston to some people asking if their trash will still be collected.
What is clear is COVID-19’s spread has become an unprecedented, potential hazard that city leaders are not taking lightly.
Holy City leaders are familiar with mitigating hurricanes and flooding, but the coronavirus has presented challenges they’ve never encountered before.
“This is entirely different, and it’s really requiring us, more than anything, to work together as a collaborative team,” Scaff said. “It’s vitally important right now because it’s all about really information management and trying to dispel rumors and that kind of thing.”
The director of the Cooper River Bridge Run said he race has never been cancelled before in its history. Irv Batten said the final decision about the race is up to the local municipalities.
“The whole situation is unprecedented,” Batten said.
When asked if the recent suspensions of other sporting events across the globe was being taken into consideration, Batten said the bridge run’s situation sets it apart because “we are outside and people that do the bridge run are healthy individuals.”
Runners travel to the Lowcountry from all around the world to compete in the 6.2-mile course, and Batten said that if someone was concerned about attending the 2020 event, “they probably wouldn’t come.”
Meanwhile, the Volvo Car Open has been cancelled. It’s traditionally held on the same weekend as the bridge run. Officials said Thursday ticket purchases will be refunded or redeemable for the next year’s event on Daniel Island.
“We took time today to understand all of our options, one of which was playing without fans as we know the players who were still in the United States wanted to play. It was important for us to see if that was feasible as we recognize that playing tennis is their livelihood and we wanted to support them as much as possible,” Bob Moran, President and Tournament Director for the Volvo Car Open, said. “The health situation is simply moving too fast and affecting all events across the world. Ultimately, we needed to make a decision that was in the best interest of all involved. Our thoughts are with everyone affected by this terrible virus and hoping for a quick recovery across the globe.”
Summerville’s popular Flowertown festival has not been affected at this time.
“We are evaluating daily,” Erin Roach, the Summerville Family YMCA’s marketing director, said. “For now, we are proceeding with all events as scheduled. We will make adjustments as necessary.”
Summerville’s spokesperson said town leaders can make the decision to pull the permit on the festival, but nothing has been decided yet.