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Sullivan's Island approves increased penalties for beachgoers ignoring coronavirus rules

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Amy (left) and Templeton Elliott walk along the beach on Sullivan’s Island on Tuesday, May 12, 2020. Gavin McIntyre/Staff

Sullivan's Island unanimously passed a measure Tuesday night to increase penalties for beachgoers who ignore the town's existing coronavirus restrictions.

Many Saturday visitors brought prohibited chairs, umbrellas and coolers, Town Administrator Andy Benke said.

Police officers had to stop every 10 feet or so to explain the safety measures, Benke said, and some beachgoers were ticketed. One man was so belligerent that officers decided against arresting him only because of the increased risk of spreading COVID-19 at the Charleston County jail, Benke said.

In response, council members passed two amendments to the existing emergency ordinance. Violators will be guilty of a civil infraction punishable by a fine of up to $100, and anyone who continues willfully ignoring an ordinance will face additional penalties.

"The intent now is better signage in order to enforce it," said Councilman Tim Reese, who drafted the changes.

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Council also added a list of encouraged activities like walking, fishing and running that can be enjoyed without bringing groups within six feet of each other.

Community leaders in the area joined forces to ask citizens to continue social distancing though Memorial Day weekend, especially as they flock to beaches and parks.

"This past Saturday gave us a snapshot of the concerns we have for this upcoming Memorial Day weekend," Charleston County Chairman Elliott Summey said. "Please think about your plans for the weekend ... social distance or stay home so we can continue to reopen the tri-county."

"While we all want our residents and neighbors to enjoy the beautiful coastline, we must not forget that the COVID-19 pandemic remains a real threat to our communities," said Isle of Palms Mayor Jimmy Carroll, who complained Saturday that his beach was teeming with visitors who flaunted restrictions and racked up parking tickets. "We want to remind our neighbors that the beaches we all love will still be here when this pandemic is over."

Reach Sara Coello at 843-937-5705 and follow her on Twitter @smlcoello.

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