Columbia City Council considers shelter-in-place order

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Columbia City Council is joining cities across the country in considering a shelter-in-place order.

Thursday, council discussed and voted on the ordinance during its virtual meeting.

So what does a shelter-in-place order mean for residents?

A shelter-in-place ordinance would require all non-essential businesses in Columbia to close for a period of time, and residents would have to stay at home unless they are walking outside, or going to work or shop at an essential businesses.

This is a draft of the ordinance (story continues below):

The big debate among council will be which businesses are considered essential and which are deemed non-essential.

Councilman Howard Duval believes grocery stores, pharmacies, gas stations and medical facilities will fall under that essential businesses category and will not be forced to close.

“Shelter-in-place does give you some flexibility, but it enforces the concept of social distancing, and that’s what we have to have,” Duval said.

Councilwoman Tamika Issac Devine says other businesses like gyms, beauty salons and home goods stores will likely be considered non-essential.

“I think there are a lot of people that are handling their everyday activities, and what this would mean to people is you can’t do the everyday activities," she explained. “You can’t do some of the things that we all recognize as part of our everyday life.”

The Columbia Police Department would be responsible for enforcing this shelter-in-place order, should it pass.

CPD says most people have complied with the city’s mandatory curfew over the past week. Officers have given 50 verbal warnings and have only had to write two citations.

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“It hasn’t been heavy handed like we’re sending you to jail,” Devine said. “We certainly don’t want to do that, but they will be responsible for making sure people are abiding by whatever order or ordinance that we pass.”

Both Duval and Devine want people in Columbia to understand the order would not be meant to burden or disrupt -- it’s designed to protect.

“I think everybody needs to understand the seriousness of this disease and do everything in their power to bend the curve, so that we don’t have the surge of cases that is predicted," Duval said.

Devine says council would likely implement the shelter-in-place order for 14 days, but she says everything is still on the table right now.

At Thursday’s meeting, council will also finalize the $6.2 million stimulus package council members announced last week.

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