MOUNT PLEASANT — Just days ago, there were no coronavirus restrictions in this town, but now restaurant dining rooms are closed and Mayor Will Haynie just announced that all public gatherings are limited to 10 people.
He also urged the town's roughly 90,000 residents to stay at home.
“To further slow the spread of the outbreak of COVID-19, I am requesting that Mount Pleasant citizens stay home and voluntarily restrict their movements to essential activities,” Haynie said.
“This voluntary action can help curb the course of the disease and give us time to mitigate its impacts.”
Efforts to slow the spread of the virus have moved quickly in Mount Pleasant. The town's annual Art Fest scheduled for Saturday was canceled, but there were no townwide restrictions in place over the weekend.
In an emergency proclamation Monday, the town announced a 50-person limit on gatherings, closed Town Hall for most public business, and directed many employees to work at home.
Tuesday, as restaurant owners struggled to determine how the 50-person limit would be applied, Gov. Henry McMaster ordered all restaurants and bars to close their dining areas Wednesday.
Many churches have stopped holding in-person Sunday services, and weddings and events have been canceled or postponed.
Thursday afternoon, the town's 50-person-gathering rule changed to 10 people, matching the most recent federal guidelines.
The new provisions read: "As is necessary to meet CDC guidelines for mass gatherings or large community events, such gatherings or events shall not exceed 10 persons. This provision shall not include medical facilities, schools, institutes of higher learning and the day-to-day operation of businesses. this provision is subject to any more restrictive requirements that may be imposed by the State of South Carolina.
Also: "As is necessary to slow the outbreak of COVID-19, citizens are requested to stay home and voluntarily restrict movements only to essential activities."
Mount Pleasant parks remain open, but organized activities and gatherings of 10 people or more are prohibited.
"The Mount Pleasant Police Department will respond to calls and will stop if they see gatherings of more than 10 persons," said Police Chief Carl Ritchie. "The primary goal of the department is not to issue tickets, but to slow the spread of COVID-19 in the community and to save lives."
Town spokeswoman Martine Wolfe-Miller said town officials had noticed sporting events and games being organized at town parks, which remain open, and that prompted concern. The town previously closed recreational facilities and suspended recreation programs.
“Help us keep our parks open for individual use by observing social distancing and helping us flatten the curve and prevent the spread of the virus,” Haynie said.
"Flatten the curve" has become an important catchphrase in the pandemic. It refers to slowing the spread of the virus so that the number of people needing hospital beds and respirators don't exceed the number available.