Below is a Digest of Local Decisions and Related Activity Regarding COVID-19 developed March 28, 2020:
- Mayor John Gregg declared the existence of a State of Emergency within the Town of Seabrook Island as a result of the Coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. The declaration was effective at 12:00 pm on Tuesday, March 17, 2020, and will remain in effect until repealed by the Mayor or a majority of Town Council members.
- The Mayor, Town Council, and staff are constantly monitoring the COVID-19 crisis and are in daily contact with state, county, and local emergency officials. To relay new information to Seabrookers, the Town has issued 9 Public Advisories in March about the public health emergency. All PSIs are available on the Town’s website.
- The 9th Public Advisory was issued on March 26 to make public the Mayor’s Executive Order to restrict gatherings of more than ten people while outside their homes, and requiring people within groups of ten or fewer people to practice social distancing by maintaining a minimum separation of six feet between individuals. Violations of this order are punishable in accordance with provisions of the Town Code, including the imposition of fines of up to $500.00 per violation. The Town’s Code Enforcement Officers are authorized to enforce the Order and are also authorized to cooperate with state and county law enforcement officers in their enforcement of the Governor’s Executive Order 2020-13 allowing for law enforcement to restrict groups to three or more individuals if the officers determine that the gathering poses a threat to public health. The Mayor’s Order was effective immediately.
- The health care experts, including CDC, continue to stress, loudly and repeatedly, that the best way to avoid transmission of COVID-19 is to practice social distancing. In other words, the Town continues to strongly urge that Seabrookers avoid personal contacts outside their homes and with anyone that is not family. Don’t assume that anyone has not been exposed – property owner, resident or visitor – a property owner who has been out on errands is statistically just as likely to have been exposed as anyone else. When you go outside for fresh air and some exercise (walking the dog, riding a bike, visiting the beach) do not interact directly with other people (even your longtime neighbor or the friend you’ve walked with for years) without practicing social distancing of at least 6 feet.
- The Mayor and Town Council continue to consult with the Town’s attorney regarding the Town’s legal powers during a state of emergency. Also impacting decisions, an opinion issued by the South Carolina Attorney General on March 27 appears to limit the authority of localities under a state emergency declaration. In response, some jurisdictions have lifted restrictions on public access and rentals.
- The Town, SIPOA and the Club are all working and consulting on best practices for the island.
- Seabrook Island did not take some of the actions implemented last week by other coastal municipalities because policies restricting public access were already and have always been in place 24/7 at the SIPOA security gate.
- Town Council is in touch with the major rental management/owner and housekeeping companies operating on the island. Their reports indicate that there is no uptick in rentals of people trying to escape to the beach. On the contrary, all have reported massive cancellations for April-May and beyond. Occupancy of their rental properties is running at 20% or less (normally, occupancy would be 85-95% this time of year). Furthermore, the management companies report that the majority of their rental properties are being occupied by the owner(s) or families of Seabrook Island residents who are renting properties to be here for their parents. Also, many Snowbirds (several here since January) have extended their stay in order to shelter in place here rather than risk traveling home.
- The Club and SIPOA have gone to extraordinary lengths to protect their employees and members:
- Early on in the emergency, SIPOA closed The Lake House which certainly presented an opportunity for close encounters for transmission. Online virtual classes will be available on April 1.
- At the Club, all equestrian trail and beach rides have been canceled and the golf and tennis pro shops are closed. Golf operations are practicing “park and play” recommendations from the USGA to protect staff and players. This includes allowing only one person in a golf cart in order to practice and encourage social distancing with the exception of playing with a spouse or family member with whom you are already in constant contact. Play reported March 26 is 70% of normal for this time of year.
- Town Council has moved up the start of Beach Patrol from April 1 to the March 27 weekend. They are enforcement officers and are allowed to break up any large groups congregating on the beach and posing a public health risk as per the Governor’s executive order and also the Mayor’s order effective March 26. The pictures from beach flyovers ordered by the Governor last weekend indicated that Seabrook Island was not overcrowded but that the small groups were well spaced and distancing themselves from each other.
- The Seabrook Island Utility Commission is fully staffed and working to continue to provide water and sewer service. SIUC expects no service disruptions. The water provided Seabrook residents is treated by the Charleston Water System, and according to CDC, COVID-19 has not been detected in drinking water. SIUC has asked
that households: Do not flush wipes or paper towels down the toilet even if they are labeled “flushable.” They do not disintegrate enough to safely pass through the sewer system and may do damage to your plumbing as well as block and damage the utility system’s pump stations
- The NextDoor blog is not an official source of information from either the Town or SIPOA. While the blog rightly allows people to express their views, some comments are not factual. Also of note, the NextDoor blog is NOT the only conversation taking place on the island. Many have expressed their views directly via emails and phone calls to the Mayor, Town Council, and SIPOA. Of note to date, the Town has as many or more comments in favor of current policies and actions than opposed.
- While Seabrookers are isolating themselves from contact with others, the Town hopes and discourages intolerance and vitriol towards others. It is concerning to hear that a dog walker pounded on the window of a car stopped at a stop sign and told the occupants to “get off our island.” The car had an out-of-state license plate but the owners are island property owners. It is sad to hear that a property owner and full-time resident out with her four daughters have repeatedly been approached, quizzed and admonished about why they are here on the island. Such incidences, hopefully, few and far between, are not representative of the Seabrook Island community we all want and expect.