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Isle of Palms joins Sullivan's Island in closing parks, playgrounds to slow COVID-19 spread

Isle of Palms coronavirus sign

The Isle of Palms sign at one entrance to the island said "Stay Home" but there were plenty of people on the beach Wednesday, March 18 2020. David Slade/Staff

Isle of Palms has joined neighboring Sullivan's Island in closing its playgrounds, parks, and tennis and basketball courts as efforts to slow the spread of the new coronavirus continue to expand.

"It seems like it changes every minute," said Isle of Palms Mayor Jimmy Carroll. "I've got some council members who would like to close the beach."

Just days ago, this past weekend, there were no virus-related restrictions on public places or private businesses on the islands, and some restaurants held early St. Patrick's Day parties.

On Monday, both islands closed their buildings to the public for non-emergency matters and recommended limiting public gatherings to no more than 50 people. By Wednesday morning, all restaurants and bars statewide had been ordered to cease dine-in service.

Sullivan's Island closed its playgrounds and playing courts Monday — a tough decision at a time when public schools are closed. Isle of Palms followed late Tuesday, Carroll said.

The concern is that the virus can linger on hard surfaces, such as playground equipment.

Isle of Palms playground closed

Isle of Palms parks and playgrounds were closed Wednesday March 18, 2020, but many ignored the new rules. David Slade/Staff

"You feel bad keeping people out," Sullivan's Island Mayor Patrick O'Neil said Wednesday. "Everyone is getting squirrely with the kids home from school."

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"We're blessed that we have the beach right there," he said.

Sullivan's Island Stith Park closed due to COVID-19

Stith Park was among the park and recreation areas closed on Sullivan's Island to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Barriers kept people from using the playing areas Wednesday March 18, 2020. David Slade/Staff

As of 5 p.m. Wednesday, Charleston County Park and Recreation's Isle of Palms County Park remained open, along with other county parks and playgrounds.

Isle of Palms has a large vacation rental business, while Sullivan's Island — one of South Carolina's most expensive ZIP codes — skews toward owner-occupied homes.

Both are home to popular restaurants, all of which are now limited to take-out and delivery business.

"I'm really worried, looking in the paper today about restaurants laying people off left and right," he said. "The rental business is also hurting."

Reach David Slade at 843-937-5552. Follow him on Twitter @DSladeNews.

David Slade is a senior Post and Courier reporter. His work has been honored nationally by Society of Professional Journalists, American Society of Newspaper Editors, Scripps foundation and others. Reach him at 843-937-5552 or dslade@postandcourier.com

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