As officials urge self-isolation, hundreds stroll downtown Greenville in search of sunshine, normalcy
Kayla Margin strolled down the sidewalk outside the Peace Center in downtown Greenville Saturday in athletic gear and sneakers.
She wasn't alone.
Even as state officials repeatedly called for South Carolinians to self-isolate and avoid large gatherings to curb the spread of the coronavirus outbreak, Margin and hundreds of others flocked to downtown Greenville to enjoy ice cream cones, walks with their dogs and the warm weather.
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"It makes you feel a little better," Margin said as she gestured to the people walking by on Main Street. "If you stay at home watching the news all day, you get a little paranoid."
Margin was joined on her walk by Deonte Cargile.
"There didn't seem to be any reason not to come out today," he said, his eyes hidden behind sunglasses to block the bright afternoon sun.
On March 13, Gov. Henry McMaster declared a state of emergency in response to the novel coronavirus outbreak in South Carolina, where there were 173 cases and three deaths as of March 21.
Last week, he ordered bars and restaurants to close their dining rooms, a potential blow to revenue that has many business owners and service-industry workers reeling.
Downtown residents Bob and Renee Mangum were on Main Street Saturday to support their favorite local shops, Spill the Beans, Snack Works Smoothie Cafe and Bodega, and Old Europe Desserts.
They also wanted to enjoy their 80-degree Saturday under a cloudless sky.
"We've been watching a lot of movies and a lot of Netflix..." Bob Mangum said. "We wanted to get outside while we can."
While about a dozen people told The Greenville News they were sanitizing their hands and distancing from others, crowds at Falls Park, the Peace Center and the river walk still gathered — humanity calling to humanity.
"We haven't really made any changes... We're still living life like normal," Ashley Allen said. She and her husband, Ashton Allen, were walking downtown for exercise since their gym shut down.
They said their gym's closure is the main hiccup to their daily routine.
"We're not doing the whole panic thing like most people," Ashley Allen said.
As the Allens walked by the Peace Center, waving to friends as they passed, Brina Shook and Stephanie Baker stood under the trees lining the theater's plaza. The women were waiting on their companions, who were Facetiming a loved one.
The group of four was in Charleston yesterday and traveled to Greenville today for vacation.
"We can't just wait in our house until somebody makes a move to lock us down," Baker said.
They got to spend the Friday on Folly Beach before the city restricted access to the island, and they were still able to enjoy Main Street in Greenville Saturday.
"The only thing, we can't really sit down and eat. Eating food in your car is difficult," Shook said, referencing closed dining rooms
Both women and several others said they were surprised to see so many people out Saturday.
But Shook said if the option to go outside is still available, people will take it.
"We're living cautiously, but we can't stop living," she said.
Zoe covers Clemson for The Greenville News and Independent Mail. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or Twitter @zoenicholson_