How Lowcountry counties and cities are coping with COVID-19

VIDEO: How Lowcountry counties and cities are coping with COVID-19

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - Several Lowcountry cities and counties are freezing all hiring during the COVID-19 crisis.

They are also spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on equipment for staff and first responders.

North Charleston Mayor Keith Summey says any city workers who can work from home are doing so.

“We have not laid off anybody. All of our people, even those at home are being paid. We’ll have to adjust some of that if it continues for a long period of time. But it’s important to keep those folks,” Summey said.

North Charleston, City of Charleston, Goose Creek, and Georgetown County all implemented hiring freezes.

Berkeley County says hiring is being considered by position, and reduced the hours of some employees to help them juggle child care.

“Our budget will remain basically what we had this year," Summey said. "We will not see any advances, new hires, and we may have to freeze some positions that are open.”

In Georgetown County, Public Information Officer Jackie Broach says one major challenge has been getting confidential information from the state health department, DHEC, about where positive patients are.

“That’s really been an issue from us basically from day one," Broach said."It’s very important for our emergency responders to know where people who tested positive are.”

While DHEC started releasing zip code specific data publicly, she says first responders need confidential specific locations to keep themselves safe.

"If this virus starts to spread amongst our emergency repsonders, within fire houses and things like that, that could get very bad very quickly. We're really working to protect them. They and emergency responders around the state have told DHEC they really need to have addresses where positive cases are located."

She says DHEC is working on it now and rolled out a test system in some counties. She said, "We're still waiting for access."

As far as the financial costs, Broach said it's not as costly as an emergency like a hurricane at this point.

Williamsburg County estimates the upfront county cost at $150,000-200,000

Dorchester County has spent less than $50,000 but says the cost will rise.

Charleston County has spent approximately $70,000 on protective equipment and supplies, funded from the existing budget.

“At the end of the day, it will be a test of us,” said Summey. “But I think it will show that we’re up to that test.”

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