Beaufort mayor urges residents to stay home amidst coronavirus outbreak

Beaufort mayor urges residents to stay home amidst coronavirus outbreak
Beaufort County Public Works Division (Source: WTOC)

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - The Mayor of Beaufort is calling on residents of the city to stay home for the next 14 days.

That request was made in a letter Saturday.

He says he cannot let another day pass without urging people to stay home

He has disagreed with Governor Henry McMaster’s incremental approach as the Palmetto State is one of only eight now without a statewide shelter at home order...and the only one in the Southeast.

He added that he doesn't have the ability under state law to unilaterally declare a stay at home order...but the restriction does not prevent him from speaking out strongly in urging people to stay home.

Read the whole letter here:

"Dear Beaufort City Residents:

Based on data, mixed messages from governments above, and virus rates rising higher than expected, as Mayor I am personally asking our residents to stay at home for the next fourteen days.

After consulting with mayors, municipal attorneys, physicians and listening carefully to Governor McMaster and Dr. Fauci in the White House, and watching numbers of cases rising faster than projected, I cannot let another day pass without urging you to stay at home, though I realize you may have essential doctors’ appointments, need to go to the pharmacy or grocery store or get some fresh air and exercise in your neighborhood for your physical and mental health.

As of April 4, 2020, the total number of cases in the United States is over 300,000 cases with at least 1,917 cases in the State of South Carolina and 148 cases in Beaufort County and growing at an accelerated rate according to SCDHEC. As of last night Beaufort County had the third highest number of known cases led only by two cities within large metropolitan areas.

Also, as of last night 93% of the population of the United States have, in one form or another, been ordered by their state and/or local officials to shelter at home. I know it will grow.

It is imperative that residents and non-residents of this great City shelter at home with exceptions mentioned above.

Even while receiving or providing and essential service -- remain at a safe distance of at least six (6) feet from others while in public. Seek medical attention, if sick, via a telehealth service provider, continue to be vigilant with hand washing, remain calm, and only purchase necessary supplies for immediate use.

Taking measures such as this to control outbreaks has been shown to minimize the risk to the public, maintain the health and safety of the people, and limit the spread of infection in our communities and within the health care delivery system.

The City of Beaufort and other municipalities in Beaufort County have formally requested and strongly urged that the Governor McMaster issue an Executive Order requiring all persons within the State of South Carolina stay at home for a minimum period of Fourteen (14) Days, unless providing or requiring an essential service, or for such other period as may be determined to be appropriate by the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control, as a necessary and immediate step to try and protect the population of the State of South Carolina from a continued and increased risk of exposure.

In a news conference on April 3, 2020, Governor McMaster reiterated his belief that such a stay at home order was not necessary. Yet he said he highly encouraged and mandated staying at home though not by an official order.

With all due respect for the Governor, who I know is working round the clock with proficient experts, for the health and safety of you, my fellow Beaufort citizens, I am concerned about the lack of clarity.

As Mayor, I don’t have the ability under state law to unilaterally declare a stay at home order. This restriction however does not prevent me from speaking out strongly in urging you as I believe is my obligation.

Governor McMaster has designated in his Executive Order the businesses and activities that he deems to be “non-essential” and we must follow him.

On Monday, I will call an emergency meeting of City Council via video-conference to present a local stay at home directive by City Council that does not expand on what the Governor has already restricted, but clearly and strongly urges Beaufort residents to shelter at home.

I have heard from hundreds of you, asking for stronger leadership from Beaufort, from South Carolina, and from Washington. Within the legal constraints, I believe our proposed emergency ordinance can provide that leadership directive.

I ask for your support and cooperation in this important time.

Note I am not speaking for city council at this point because time is of the essence and we do not have time for appropriate public notice for a special meeting over the weekend. But I will call an emergency meeting on Monday to build a consensus plan for our wonderful city and its special people who need to remain safe and healthy.

With respect and concern for all, I am

Sincerely,

Billy Keyserling

Mayor of Beaufort"

He plans to call an emergency meeting of city council via teleconference Monday to present an emergency ordinance.

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