CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – The City of Charleston has declared a state of emergency in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
During a meeting on Monday, City Council passed an ordinance temporarily banning gatherings of 50 people or more in an effort to encourage social distancing.
The ordinance takes effect at midnight on Monday.
During the meeting, several councilmembers expressed concern about banning gatherings in places of worship specifically. Some members argued that it blurred the line between separation of church and state, while others argued that the limitations are in the interest of public health, and during a public health crisis, churches should be treated like any other public place.
In terms of enforcement, officials said that they did not anticipate taking legal action if a place of worship did not follow the ordinance but would most likely just request that the gathering break up into smaller groups. They also suggested more virtual/streaming services.
Additionally, grocery stores were brought up as a point of concern. Members asked if the 50 people rule would apply in grocery stores and how it would be enforced. It was suggested that a grocery store likely would not fall under the ordinance because people are not tightly packed into one specific area, but rather spread out among the aisles. How to enforce social distancing in grocery stores is still being discussed.