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Greenville urges statewide stay-at-home order

Molly Hulsey //April 3, 2020//

Greenville urges statewide stay-at-home order

Molly Hulsey //April 3, 2020//

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The Greenville City Council passed an ordinance Friday morning urging Gov. Henry McMaster to issue a statewide stay-at-home order and enforcing businesses citywide to enact specific social distancing measures.

Introduced by Mayor Knox White, the ordinance (.pdf) exhorts Gov. Henry McMaster to issue a stay-at-home order for individuals not engaged in “essential” services and also issues a maximum $100 fine for Greenville businesses that do not enact noted social distancing measures when feasible, effective 10 a.m. Saturday.

Businesses in city limits will be expected to comply will specific social distancing measures starting April 4. (Photo/Ross Norton)“As a part of this ordinance, we do urge the governor to take further action for statewide effect, especially with the recent actions of the governors of Georgia and North Carolina,” White said during the meeting. “Practical issues are raised by that when you don’t have consistency across those state lines, and again to affirm that social distancing is critical. There’s always going to be a lot of businesses, perhaps too many, that are open, even in North Carolina and Georgia: social distancing becomes more important than ever.”

Citywide measures include separate hours for seniors and other vulnerable populations, signage on the floor and in other locations encouraging six-foot distancing between customers and making sanitizing products available, according to a copy (.pdf) of the ordinance posted Thursday. Repeated offenses could lead to suspended or revoked business licenses, according to the ordinance, but businesses who face “undo hardship” in applying these measures will not be held liable.

Amendments passed during the meeting eliminated the original move to enforce physical protective barriers at check-out counters due to constituent feedback as well as hand sanitizer and other sanitizing products made readily available to customers. One or the other will be sufficient after the amendment.

Furthermore, businesses will not be held liable for customers’ failure to practice social distance and now will be able to read more specific guidelines on undue hardship exceptions.

“He [the governor] urges businesses to facilitate social distancing practices, so this ordinance, in our view, is perfectly consistent with the governor’s order, state order, and we’re just putting some teeth into those social distancing recommendations,” White said.

None of the councilmembers were opposed to the ordinance, but Councilman John DeWorken abstained, citing a possible conflict of interest.

The vote followed a statement from Dr. Eric Ossmann, vice chairman of emergency medicine at Prisma Health, in which he said Upstate data now showed a 9% COVID-19 positivity rate and noted that Greenville’s number of cases will continue to stay manageable if South Carolina moves along the same trajectory as North Carolina and Georgia.

“Overall, because of the work done with social distancing and keeping people home here in the Upstate, our upslope of cases is gentle compared to Florida and Georgia,” he said in testimony during the special called meeting. “Now is not the time to back off. It is time to double down to discourage people from congregating.”

Ossmann said that Prisma Health is working to create a Tier 1 alternate health care site and Tier 2 minimal care site for COVID-19 patients as early as next week.

“If you look at the local level, we know that we are not moving in the right direction, in terms of the numbers. We know we are still climbing that curve,”  Councilmember Dorothy Dowe said during an interview before the meeting. “That puts us at much higher numbers as Prisma is predicting.”

She said that if provisions are being made for overflow capacity at Prisma Health, the COVID-19 cases in Greenville are spiking too quickly and too high.

 “I’m not going to speculate on what the governor is going to do, but I think that the evidence surrounding him geographically is compelling,” Dowe said.