Stay Home and Stay Safe Beaufort: Here are the FAQ's for our Shelter in Place Ordinance

City Council directs residents to stay at home

This afternoon, Beaufort City Council passed an emergency ordinance directing residents within the City to shelter in place for the duration of the City’s emergency declaration, except to go out for essential activities, beginning at 1 a.m. April 7.

The ordinance reinforces Gov. Henry McMaster’s executive orders last week that ordered non-essential businesses closed, ranging from hair salons to fitness studios to department stores. City Council members acknowledged that they did not have the authority to “keep people in their house” but they believed that the severity of the coronavirus spread in Beaufort County made it important for Council to urge via official language that people stay at home. “Before you leave your house, ask yourself, is this really essential,” said Councilman Stephen Murray. If the answer is no, stay put, he added.

“This is unprecedented. This is about saving lives,” said Councilwoman Nan Sutton. “If one of your family members gets sick, you do not get to go into the hospital with them.”

“The one thing we do know about this virus,” said Mayor Billy Keyserling, “is that people like each of us have the power to arrest this virus by staying out of its way.”

As of April 5, Beaufort County had 156 confirmed cases of COVID-19, one of the highest per-capita rates in the State of South Carolina. “We are seeing rapid growth in the county,” said City Manager Bill Prokop. The ordinance does not prevent people from going out to their yards or neighborhoods or City parks for walks, bike rides, and other forms of exercise, as long as social distancing (keeping six feet away from others besides immediate family) is observed.

It also does not prevent anyone from going to grocery stores, hardware stores, or pharmacies, although residents are urged to keep visits to a minimum, and if possible, have one person from a household do the shopping. It also does not prevent anyone from going to work, unless a business has been deemed by Gov. McMaster to be non-essential and has already closed. However, employers are urged to allow as many employees as possible to work from home.

The ordinance gives the Beaufort police officers and code inspectors the ability to issue a civil citation if they observe non-compliance.


City of Beaufort Shelter in Place Ordinance FAQ’s…

Q. What does the ordinance say? 

A. The ordinance directs residents to stay at home except for essential activities, for the duration of the City’s Emergency Declaration. Read ordinance here. If you are exhibiting ANY flulike symptoms, you MUST stay home (unless your doctor has approved you to visit Beaufort Memorial Hospital or other testing site or hospital). See COVID-19 symptoms here.

Q. Why did City Council pass this?

A. COVID-19 is spreading rapidly in Beaufort County. Our county has one of the highest per-capita rates of confirmed cases in the State of South Carolina. Council believes it’s important to reinforce through official language the absolute necessity of staying at home as much as possible.

Q. How does this fit in with what Gov. McMaster has declared?

A. This ordinance complies with all of Gov. McMaster’s executive orders.

Q. What are the penalties?

A. Code inspectors can issue a civil citation if they observe willful disregard of this ordinance.

Q. How long is this ordinance in place?

A. The ordinance is in place through April 30 but can be extended.




Q. Can I go to work?

A. If your employer’s business is still operating – meaning that Gov. McMaster has not closed it as being non-essential — then you can leave your home to go to work. The City is urging all employers who are still open to allow as many of their employees as possible to work from home. Employers should ensure that any employees who are at work are separated by the six-feet social distance rule. See McMaster’s order on non-essential businesses here.




Q. Can I still go to the grocery store, etc.?

A. Grocery stores, hardware stores, and pharmacies are the primary retail operations that continue to be open as they are considered essential businesses. We are asking you to keep your shopping to a minimum, and to ask yourself before you go out if this trip is essential. If you do go out, please wear gloves if you have them, a mask if you have it, and bring wipes. (If you do not have gloves, plastic produce bags make handy mittens while shopping). Please observe social distancing at stores. If possible, have only one person per household make a shopping trip.




Q. Are you going to come after me if I am at a park or riding my bike on the Spanish Moss Trail?

A. No! We recognize that now, more than ever, individuals and families need to get out for fresh air and exercise. We have beautiful neighborhoods and neighborhood parks. Please observe social distancing when you see others on the sidewalks, parks, or trails. No more than three people should be in a group, except for immediate family.

Q. Can I meet friends for a picnic in the park?

A. No. That is not an essential activity. Also, all bathrooms in City parks are closed.

Q. Can I walk my dog?

A. Yes.

Q. Can I go out in my boat?

A. Public docks in the City of Beaufort are closed. If you have a private dock, and take your boat out, do not stop at the sandbar in the Beaufort River. The Department of Natural Resources is patrolling the river and will stop boaters from gathering. See McMaster’s executive order.



Q. Can I visit a family member or friend in the hospital?

A. Beaufort Memorial Hospital has greatly restricted visitor access to patients, even immediate family. All waiting rooms are closed to visitors. No visitors are allowed, except for maternity, pediatric, and end-of-life patients, but even those have restrictions.  See guidelines here.

Q. Can I leave the house to go to the doctor or dentist?

A. Many Beaufort Memorial primary care physicians have begun tele-health visits instead of office visits. Please call your doctor or dentist to get specific information – but if the appointment can wait, reschedule. BMH outpatient information.

Q. Can I take my pet to the vet?

A. If it’s an emergency, yes. If not, please wait.




Q. What help is there for the stress we are all experiencing?

A. Here are some resources:

South Carolina Department of Mental Health offers family support network calls several times a week. Find it here.

The CDC offers suggestions on managing stress during this time. Find it here.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness offers a resource guide. Find it here.




Q. If I see a group of people who appear not to be following social distancing guidelines, or observe other possible infractions, whom should I contact?

A. Please Concerns will be prioritized and addressed as appropriate and as time allows.


See ordinance

View Council meeting

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