Here's how Upstate law enforcement agencies plan to enforce Gov. McMaster's '3 or more' order
Law enforcement agencies in the Upstate are turning to common sense after Gov. Henry McMaster's order to disperse groups of three or more.
Greenville County deputies are not cracking down on outdoor gatherings of three or more following Gov. Henry McMaster's order aimed at slowing the spread of COVID-19, according to a statement from Greenville County Sheriff Hobart Lewis.
Lewis told The Greenville News that McMaster's directive gives deputies flexibility to address the worsening pandemic, but he does not intend to strictly enforce the order in Greenville County.
"Nobody's going to stop and try to intervene or warn grown adults about an advisement that was given by the governor," he said. "Nobody's looking for a criminal charge for three or more people standing together talking."
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Across the county line, Pickens County Sheriff Rick Clark said deputies will be patrolling areas where people are known to congregate to advise people of the order and break up large gatherings as needed.
And in Anderson County, Sheriff Chad McBride issued a statement Tuesday evening saying he hopes deputies will not encounter a group that poses a health risk or are purposely undermining measures to help stop the spread of COVID-19.
"We hope that we do not encounter situations as this, however if we do, we will utilize discretion, common sense and whatever we can do to mitigate those circumstances," he said. "We also hope that people that normally would congregate will find alternative ways to communicate, fellowship, and worship."
Deputies will not interfere with churches, but McBride expressed hope that church leaders utilize best practices and common sense.
City of Greenville police will take a few days to educate the public about the order, according to a statement Tuesday evening from the Police Department.
Police said the order doesn't apply to people waiting in line to pick up food or students at food distribution locations, although people are recommended to practice social distancing.
"Our hope is that the community works with us so that we gain voluntary compliance," police said in a statement.
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McMaster issued the executive order Monday in response to requests from law enforcement on how to handle large groups that have been gathering on beaches, sandbars and in parking lots as coronavirus cases increase each day.
"We are facing a dangerous and deadly enemy and this type of behavior is both irresponsible and selfish," McMaster said.
According to a letter from the South Carolina Attorney General's Office to the State Law Enforcement Division, the order is intended to prohibit "boisterous crowds and unruly behavior."
Deputies have not seen large gatherings in the county, Lewis said, and residents have been cautious as the number of cases in South Carolina and the Upstate grows each day.
In the statement, Lewis said the governor's directive was aimed at people disregarding the dangers of the pandemic who "might pose a health risk."
"I simply ask our community to use common sense when it comes to maintaining their health and safety by listening to suggested hygiene practices and other social distancing preventatives given by our state and national leaders," Lewis wrote in the statement.
Lewis said the Sheriff's Office is still responding to calls as schools and businesses close their doors, and the agency does not have the manpower to focus on dispersing small groups throughout the county.
"We stay busy without the coronavirus going on," he said. "So we're not riding looking for groups of three or more. We don't have the people."
Under state law, willfully failing or refusing to comply with an emergency order is a misdemeanor punishable by up to a $100 fine or 30 days in jail.
Read Sheriff Lewis' full statement below:
Conor Hughes is a public safety reporter with The Greenville News. Contact him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ConorJHughes.