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Curfews ordered in Columbus; beach and waterway access closed in SC: COVID-19 update

Tabor City Hall is now closed to the public, with signs instructing citizens on how to manage town government and law enforcement needs.


     A 10 p.m. through 5 a.m. curfew begins Wednesday in Columbus County, two days after Gov. Henry McMaster closed beaches and waterways in South Carolina.

      This post will cover these topics and will be updated:

  • Curfew order and new restrictions for Columbus
  • Fair Bluff curfew begins tonight
  • Beach, waterway access closed in SC
  • County offices, TC Town Hall close to public
  • Don’t call 9-1-1, call 2-1-1
  • School board moves meeting to allow for social distancing

Curfew order and new restrictions for Columbus

     Columbus County’s order was released less than an hour before a stay-at-home order issued Friday by Gov. Roy Cooper was to take effect. The governor’s order commands citizens to stay at home with exceptions for travel to and from employment deemed essential, and travel trips for groceries, medicines, and other essential items.

     Effective through April 30, unless modified or rescinded, the Columbus County order includes “additional prohibitions in the Columbus County include:

  • A curfew from 10 p.m. through 5 a.m. daily excludes “healthcare emergencies, healthcare workers, emergency first responders, travel to or from work, or assistance with the emergency response to the Coronavirus.”
  • Closing of all “public playgrounds, public playground equipment and exercise stations, public team sport facilities, public golf courses, and public gardens.”
  • Terms set forth in executive orders issued by Gov. Cooper including the closings of specific businesses are incorporated in the county’s declaration.
  • Campgrounds, hotels, motels, and short-term lodging must be closed to the public, with exceptions to accommodate “government requests to assist with the emergency response to the Coronavirus or to provide lodging in support of the supply and distribution of COVID-19 essential Businesses and Operation or in support of our county’s COVID-19 emergency response and practices utilized to fight the virus of its spread.”
  • Extended stay hotels and campgrounds may continue to offer lodging for terms of no less than 28 days to those already on premises, but not enter into new leases or rentals.
  • Violation of the order, just as violations of the state declarations, are defined as a misdemeanor with a possible fine of up to $50 or up to 30 days in jail.

     Read the complete Columbus County order here: Columbus County Order, Additional Restrictions

Fair Bluff curfew begins tonight

     An 8 p.m. through 6 a.m. curfew for the Town of Fair Bluff takes effect this evening (Monday) Mayor Billy Hammond announced in a news release. That order is effective “every day until further notice,” the news release said.

     Town police will be enforcing both local and state orders in response to the COVID-crisis, Hammond said, including issuing citations to anyone “caught with 10 or more people congregating will be given a citation.” Those people, Hammond said, will be issued a citation and levied a fine.

Beach, waterway access closed in SC

     Beach and waterway access across South Carolina has been closed to the public following a weekend that say gatherings well in excess of three allowed by state mandate in boats and on beaches.

     Gov. Henry McMaster issued the order on Twitter Monday afternoon. Read the full order here: SC Executive Order On Boat Landings

     “As a result of behavior observed this past weekend by the Department of Natural Resources and SLED, it has become necessary to close public access to our state’s beaches, and close boat ramps and landings on our state’s lakes, rivers and waterways,” McMaster Tweeted. “This is unfortunate for those who chose to responsibly follow the instructions of our public health officials, but a necessary action to prevent the spread of the COVID 19 virus.”

     Gov. McMaster’s order also closes public access points to those waterways, including parking lots that access “any and all public piers, docks, wharfs, boat ramps, and boat landings.”

     While private beaches can stop for fishing, other boats may not beach on sandbars, islands, riverbanks and lakesides under terms of the order, for the duration of the state’s state of emergency.

     McMaster said the order was necessary to halt the spread of COVID-19 and to abide by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations that people separate by at least six feet, and the governor’s order barring gatherings of more than three people.

County offices, TC and FB town halls close to public

     All Columbus County and many municipal government offices have been closed to the public, Tabor City and Fair Bluff taking action ahead of the county, it’s uniform closing policy effective Tuesday.

     Those government employees remain at work, with the public encouraged to transact business whenever possible by phone or e-mail.

     In Tabor City water bills may be paid by placing check, cash or money order for the correct amount in an envelope marked with name, phone number and address in the drop box outside; mail in payment; or pay by credit/debit card by calling Town Hall at 910-653-3458.

     Waste Management, the town’s trash hauler, is using mechanical methods to pick up trash cans, and will not pick up trash placed beside those cans in Tabor City.

     To apply or pick up a building permit call Town Hall at 910-653-3458. To contact Building Inspector Mike Richardson call 910-770-1020.

     In Fair Bluff citizens with questions may call Town Hall at 910-649-7426 from 8 a.m. to noon, and 1 to 5 p.m. Utility bills may be paid through the town drop box outside Town Hall, or by telephone or debit card by calling town hall. Town government is waiving the usual credit/debit card convenience fee during this pandemic.

     Some Columbus County offices have already been closed to the public, but all will be effective Tuesday. Some staff may be arriving at staggered times “to assist with social distancing,” a memo to county department heads said.

Don’t call 9-1-1, call 2-1-1

     Some residents with questions about Gov. Cooper’s Executive Order, which went into effect at 5 p.m. today (Monday) have been calling 9-1-1, and that’s a problem, Columbus County Emergency Services Director Kay Worley said Monday.

     “Do not call 9-1-1 for information,” Worley said. “9-1-1 is for emergencies only. These non-emergency calls tie up our 9-1-1 emergency lines.”

     State leaders have established a 2-1-1 COVID-19 information line, and encourages citizens to call for information on the state’s response to the crisis, help for issues related to the disease outbreak and efforts to slow it.

     Coronavirus information and resources dealing with families, mental health and financial needs, are available at 2-1-1.

     South Carolina also has a 2-1-1 line with the same mission.

School board moves meeting to allow for social distancing

     Columbus County Board of Education is moving its April 6 meeting to the east to allow members to separate, Supt. Deanne Meadows announced Monday.

     That regular meeting, scheduled for 5:30 p.m., will be held in the cafeteria at East Columbus High School in Lake Waccamaw.

     Board members and schools’ staff will meet inside the cafeteria, and the public will be provided space outside the cafeteria where they will be able to listen to an audio feed during the open session. Members of the public will not be allowed inside the meeting, the notice said.

     Look for continuing coverage on local impacts from the coronavirus COVID-19 outbreak here and in the Tabor-Loris Tribune in print and online.