CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg said he believes the city’s “Stay at Home” ordinance, which took effect early Thursday morning, is consistent with Gov. Henry McMaster’s efforts to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus in the state.
The mayor’s news conference Friday afternoon came a short time hours after South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson issued a legal opinion stating that local governments cannot exercise emergency powers dedicated to the governor. Specifically, Wilson says “stay at home” orders can only be issued by the governor, according to a 1980 opinion that related to mandatory evacuations ordered by towns, cities and counties.
The mayor said he read Wilson’s opinion, it was answering a specific question of whether the governor’s power’s pre-empt similar orders of counties and municipalities.
But he said the opinion recognizes home rule, which gives counties and municipalities “control over their own destiny, so to speak.”
“So we feel like we’re in concert with the governor’s wishes and as his [spokesman] said the other day, we really have the same interests at heart, and that’s our public safety and health," Tecklenburg said. “Now I would just respectfully say that sometimes local jurisdictions local government needs to look at their own situations and make local decisions that’s what Home Rule is all about.”
He said if Gov. Henry McMaster were to say otherwise, he would abide by the governor’s orders, but added that he is working with the governor’s office and they are part of a joint effort in responding to the pandemic.
He began the news conference showing charts that depicted a steep upward slope in the number of COVID-19 cases being reported in Charleston County at a news briefing Friday.
He said the chart shows Charleston County, at 60 cases since March 6.
“And this is just the kind of a line on the graph folks that we do not want to see, where the line is heading up at an incredible slope over a short period of time,” he said. “It’s called the acceleration phase. And if this type of acceleration continues in Charleston, and in South Carolina. We would become what is now known as a hotspot.”
Charleston Police Chief Luther Reynolds said he and Tecklenburg have never discussed locking the city down.
"We don't have martial law. we don't have checkpoints, we don't have roadblocks. Currently, we don't have curfews," he said. "We're asking our communities to work together as Charleston does so well every single day, and is doing so well today. And we would ask those people that are not adhering to this right now, to not be selfish, but to be selfless as so many others are being right now."
Tecklenburg ended the news conference with a plea for everyone to adhere to the often-repeated guidance designed to prevent COVID-19′s spread.
“So y’all, it’s time to stay home, to stay distanced, to be smart," he said. "It doesn’t mean we can’t have good weekend, the weather is beautiful. Get out and do some exercise, just keep it to yourself, or to your immediate family.
McMaster, meanwhile, has scheduled a news conference for 4 p.m. from the state’s Emergency Operations Center in West Columbia.