Charleston is faring better than most of South Carolina, but officials think coronavirus cases are still trending in the wrong direction.
As such, the city of Charleston offices, programs and facilities are rolling back from Phase III to Phase II of reopening plans, Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg said at a coronavirus news conference yesterday.
“We’ve been saying repeatedly that this is not the time to let our guard down. In fact, I’m going to say a challenge today that it’s time to double down on our safety precautions on COVID-19 until this vaccine is widely distributed,” he said.
Reverting to Phase II of Charleston’s data-driven four-phase plan to reopen means it will cease issuing permits for gatherings in city facilities or parks and that city workers who are able will return to working from home. Appointments with city officials will need to be scheduled virtually for now.
Though the roll back does not apply to business and organizations located and operating in Charleston limits, Tecklenburg issued caution nonetheless.
“I want to challenge our community, our businesses, our citizens to look at every aspect of your safety protocol and how you’re doing business and interacting with other folks in our community to make sure we’re safe,” he said.
Charleston originally entered Phase III on Oct. 5. When two consecutive weeks of positive trends have been reached, Tecklenburg said he will consider returning to Phase III. As of now, the city has yet to reach Phase IV.
The mayor was joined yesterday in Washington Square by Dr. Patrick J. Cawley, MUSC Health CEO and MUSC vice president for health affairs, and Dr. Jeffrey DiLisi, Roper St. Francis Healthcare president and CEO.
In a note of optimism, Cawley said that because of the protocols put in place this summer, Charleston is proceeding better than the rest of the state and hasn’t seen the same surges these last two weeks.
He encouraged testing and vaccinations, and reiterated that for those who have the virus and are high risk, the monoclonal antibody is now available in Charleston.
“It’s very, very effective at lowering the possibility of hospitalization and potentially even death,” Cawley said.
Since Dec. 7, infected individuals at Roper St. Francis have risen from the low to mid 20s to 90, but are still off from the hospital’s highest peak of approximately 150 in mid-July, DiLisi said.
He emphasized the importance of following Tecklenburg’s protocols so that hospitals are able to allocate services to patients who don’t have the virus but need critical care.
“We need our resources to take care of all those patients,” he said.
As for the vaccine, the city is getting it out and residents just need to hold tight a few more months, Tecklenburg said.
“Let’s do it as safely as possible so that those hospitalization numbers do not continue to rise,” he said. “When they go up exceedingly, that’s what puts our community at risk and our public health at risk as well.”e