CITY OF SUMTER COVID-19 UPDATES
Please remember that updates may happen every day, and sometimes several times per day, so please check back often for the most up-to-date information. Thank you.
Sumter, SC (April 1, 2020, 1PM)
FAQ’s with Mayor Joe McElveen
The COVID-19 pandemic has prompted many changes to daily life, and just as many questions about what’s happening, why, and what will happen in the future. In the face of uncertainty, it’s easy to get the wrong information. Sumter Mayor Joseph T. McElveen addresses some of the most frequently asked questions and concerns:
Q: How long will “social” or “physical distancing” guidelines remain in place?”
A: Our president has continued his order that we citizens observe “social” or “physical distancing” through at least the month of April. We all should recognize that the coronavirus situation is very, very serious and that it’s likely to be with us for a while. It may get better with warmer weather coming, but we don’t know that just yet. The main things we citizens can do right now are to avoid contact with others and frequently wash our hands.
Q: How are Sumter’s citizens dealing with the situation?
A: I drove around Sumter this past weekend, and it looks as though most of our citizens are observing the “three-person rule” put out by Governor McMaster. I am proud of how many Sumter citizens realize the importance of separation. I have received a few reports of people refusing to observe physical separation, and some continue to express that they do not believe we are in an emergency. Overall, though, things are going well according to our Chief of Police and other sources.
Q: Why are the restrictions necessary, and will there be more of them?
A: I am no medical expert, but I have read a lot about the virus, listened to men and women on television who have devoted their lives to learning about viruses, and talked to local doctors and other health care professionals. This I know for certain — we are in the midst of a pandemic. And as in any situation, there will be those who act contrary to their own best interests and those of others.
The coronavirus is killing people, and it’s sneaky. A person can have it and never have a symptom, but will potentially infect every person with whom he comes in contact. We are going to see an increase in the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Sumter over the next few days. The suddenness of the increase could be because of slow turnaround in test results — up to seven days’ delay. However, local officials are not getting reports on the total number of tests. Results are reported on or after the date the they are received, not by the date of testing.
Once again I stress do not get hung up on the number of positive results. South Carolina is not yet testing that many people. I have read that up to 25% of people with the COVID-19 have NO symptoms, but yet can infect you or me if we come in contact with them.
Young or old, you do not want this virus. The symptoms sound agonizing. One survivor said that when the breathing problems start, you are sure you will die. Not one of us wants to be the cause of another person getting this virus and suffering. If we don’t take the necessary precautions, that person could be someone we love. The notion that this virus infects only older people with medical conditions is just wrong. Young people have medical conditions, known and unknown, too. Listen to interviews with healthcare professionals treating COVID-19 patients.
Q: Why hasn’t the City imposed a curfew or issued a “stay at home” ordinance?
A: Most people in Sumter are not causing problems and are staying at home. Another issue is the legality of a city declaring an emergency or ordering its citizens to do something when the Governor has declared a statewide state of emergency. It’s in our best interests to comply with the Governor’s orders. Sumter will enforce the Governor’s “three-person rule.” It’s best to delay in-person group gatherings of any kind right now. If you and the people you live with are driving around town to get out of the house, that’s okay. If you are picking up friends to ride with you, that is not smart and not okay.
Local health care officials have told me that the virus is going to get worse and perhaps hit a peak in one to two weeks. There is a lot we don’t know about what is going to happen, so we need to be smart about what we do and where we go even after the Governor’s order is rescinded. City Council will rely heavily on the advice of Police Chief Roark and our city manager, Deron McCormick, as to whether we need to have a curfew or something more restrictive. I hope that doesn’t become necessary.
Let me make a suggestion: Let’s do “stay at home” or “shelter in place” voluntarily in the Sumter Community. We shouldn’t need a law or executive order to make us act to protect ourselves and the people we care about.
Q: What businesses are required to be closed?
A: Governor McMaster today ordered that all non-essential businesses close in South Carolina. These executive orders typically last for a duration of 15 days. This executive order goes into effect on April 1, 2020 at 5:00 PM and includes:
- Entertainment venues and facilities - Night clubs, bowling alleys, arcades, concert venues, theaters, auditoriums and performing arts centers, tourist attractions (museums, aquariums, and planetariums), racetracks, indoor children’s play areas excluding daycare facilities, adult entertainment venues, bingo halls, and venues operated by social clubs.
- Recreational and athletic facilities and activities - Fitness and exercise centers and commercial gyms, spas and public or commercial swimming pools, group exercise facilities, spectator sports, sports that involve interaction with another person in close proximity and within less than 6 feet of another person, activities that require the use of shared sporting apparatus and equipment, activities on commercial or public playground equipment.
- Close contact service providers - Barbershops, hair salons, waxing salons, threading salons, nail salons and spas, body-art facilities and tattoo services, tanning salons, massage therapy establishments, and massage services.
Q: How can local businesses help?
A: I am so proud of how so many businesses in Sumter have acted voluntarily to protect their employees and customers. Physical separation, frequent disinfection, marking off intervals in store lines, offering drive-through and curbside pick-up services — as much as some of them are hurting financially right now, they have really stepped up in working to keep us all safe. I believe our community will continue to support them when the crisis abates. Please support businesses in Sumter as much as you safely. Many will struggle to stay afloat, and it will get worse as more time passes.
Q: Why are the parks closed? Fresh air and sunlight are good for people, and it helps to be able to get out of the house.
A: We tried to keep them open, but we have received many calls from people planning to bring groups of people here from other communities. This would not be a good thing at this time. We also had people running into people they knew, and they ended up gathering in groups larger than recommended. So we had to close the parks. Also, the state closed all state parks.
Q: What city services are still running?
A: We’ve worked hard to minimize disruption of services, and with the exception of curbside recycling, all city services are continuing. Curbside recycling requires workers to handle household items, so it will resume as soon as it’s safe for our workers to do so.
For those who would still like to continue recycling, all recycling centers and the county landfill are open to their regular hours. There are nine (9) recycling centers across the county and one landfill (details are listed here).
Convenience pay centers, such as at the Treasurer’s Office (20 North Magnolia Street) and Summary Court (190 East Canal Street) are open, so if you need to pay your taxes or a ticket, you can still do that. The Liberty Center, located at 12 W. Liberty Street, which houses Business License, Planning, Building and Codes offices is still open, you can call their offices directly to handle most requests via phone, but access to the facility is limited to the rear entrance.
Q: Have there been any changes to medical privacy laws?
A: HIPAA laws are still in effect; however, to help keep our first responders safe, Governor McMaster has issued an executive order allowing our 911 operators to ask about COVID-19 exposure or positive test results. We are complying with that.
Q: I keep hearing rumors about different things that have happened or will happen. How do we know what’s true and what isn’t?
A: In times like this, there are bound to be a lot of rumors. There was a rumor that the City planned to shut off the water, and let me state strongly, that will NOT happen unless there is a line break that needs repair. We are constantly updating our website at www.sumtersc.gov, social media via Facebook and Twitter, and news media. If you aren’t sure about something, that’s where you need to be checking.
Q: Do you have any other advice for our citizens?
A: If you really want to avoid the virus, wash your hands throughout the day, stay at home as much as you can and avoid other people. Please practice physical separation. Please safely take care of neighbors and families who need help. Please contribute to our local caring agencies. Please pray for those affected by the virus and their families, for those on the front lines protecting us, and helping those who have been infected. In many instances, they are risking their lives for their neighbors. If we do our part to help “flatten the curve” — reduce the number of cases — we will make it through and see a better day.
Sumter, SC (March 31, 2020, 5PM)
Gov. Henry McMaster today ordered non-essential businesses closed in South Carolina. The executive order goes into effect on April 1, 2020 and includes:
Entertainment venues and facilities:
Night clubs, bowling alleys, arcades, concert venues, theaters, auditoriums and performing arts centers, tourist attractions (museums, aquariums, and planetariums), racetracks, indoor children’s play areas excluding daycare facilities, adult entertainment venues, bingo halls, and venues operated by social clubs.
Recreational and athletic facilities and activities:
Fitness and exercise centers and commercial gyms, spas and public or commercial swimming pools, group exercise facilities, spectator sports, sports that involve interaction with another person in close proximity and within less than 6 feet of another person, activities that require the use of shared sporting apparatus and equipment, activities on commercial or public playground equipment
Close contact service providers:
Barbershops, hair salons, waxing salons, threading salons, nail salons and spas, body-art facilities and tattoo services, tanning salons, massage therapy establishments, and massage services.
This latest executive order follows a March 30, 2020, executive order that closes all public access points to the state’s beaches, as well as the closure of public boat ramps, landings and other access points to lakes, rivers, and waterways.
Sumter, SC (March 29, 2020, 7PM)
The recycling centers and the landfill are still open if you have large items or want to continue recycling. Details and addresses of the nine (9) recycling centers around Sumter County are on our website... https://www.sumtersc.gov/publicservices/sanitation/recycling. Thank you.
Sumter, SC (March 27, 2020, 2PM)
Sumter, SC (March 27, 2020 12PM)
The Sumter Item's COVID-19 Response - Featured Guest: Mayor Joe McElveen, City of Sumter
"We talked to the mayor live on Zoom earlier today, with the public also viewing and submitting questions, about the city’s response to this pandemic. He gave some insightful and honest thoughts on how we should all practice social distancing..."
Sumter, SC (March 26, 2020, 11:30AM)
As I write, Sumter now has 10 confirmed cases and one death related to the virus. My prayers and those of the Sumter community go out to those who are fighting to recover, and especially to the family of our neighbor who succumbed. Do not think that we “only” have 10; that’s just how many have been confirmed.
We know COVID-19 is in our community; there are most probably people with the virus who do not know it. Some of those will never be aware they had it. We must do all that we can to prevent its spread. Physical separation is the key to keeping this virus from spreading quickly across our community. While some are taking this seriously, many are not taking this seriously enough and we need to do better for the safety and welfare of our entire community. While the governor has not officially directed a “shelter in place,” citizens can and should follow this on their own. Please become educated on the science behind “flattening the curve.” Although Sumter is fortunate not to have a large number of cases so far, this is likely to change in the coming weeks. Prevention now means that if the worst happens, medical systems will not be overwhelmed and as many affected citizens as possible will have a fighting chance of beating the virus.
The City of Sumter is committed to keeping our community safe and healthy while still maintaining as many of our government services as we can. In an effort to do our part to reduce our community’s exposure to COVID-19, the city has closed all playgrounds and equipment, and all city offices are closed to public access until further notice. Citizens and businesses can still take care of government matters during this time, primarily by phone, email and the city’s online services at www.sumtersc.gov. We will also be enforcing Governor McMaster’s order restricting gatherings of more than three persons together in one area.
Please remember our city employees in your thoughts and prayers as these folks continue to serve our community daily. Not only do we have police and firefighters protecting us around the clock, but we have maintenance crews with our water and sewer systems, sanitation workers carrying out their duties, crews keeping our parks open and tree limbs clear from danger, administrative staff who must work diligently to keep our financial systems healthy, with a new budget that is required to be balanced and approved by June 30, and many more essential operations. As we are doing all we can – separation, frequent cleaning, and the like – we ask our residents and citizens to do what you can too.
Remember, safety first, we are trying to strike a balance between letting citizens do what they need to get done but protecting our community from a massive spread of the virus. The next step is to severely restrict activity, so please abide by the President’s guidelines as well as those from Governor McMaster. Help your fellow man and support businesses as you can while practicing safe habits given to us by the CDC. Additionally, if you can donate to help our caring agencies and charities, please do.
We have created a dedicated page on the City’s website to access links to all of this important information on COVID-19, please visit www.sumtersc.gov.
Mayor Joe McElveen
Sumter, SC (March 23, 2020, 5:45PM)
In order to minimize exposure to COVID-19, the City of Sumter and Sumter County have decided to close playground equipment at all parks, effective immediately (Monday, March 23). Playground equipment has not been sanitized.
Although parks will remain open, residents are asked to exercise precaution and practice social distancing while outdoors. Please follow the below guidelines:
- Do not use parks or trails if you are sick or exhibiting symptoms.
- Observe CDC’s minimum recommended social distancing of 6 feet from other persons at all times.
- Follow CDC guidance on personal hygiene to visiting parks or trails.
- Be prepared for limited access to public restrooms or water fountains.
- Share the trail and warn other trail users of your presence and as you pass.
We understand residents’ need to maintain their physical and mental health, and encourage them to do so safely, following the above guidelines. Thank you.
Sumter, SC (March 23, 2020, 1PM)
Effective immediately (starting Tuesday, March 24), for the safety of our staff, the City of Sumter sanitation crews will not be sorting recycling by hand at the curb during pickup. Please bag your recycling items and place them in the same container as your regular trash, until further notice. Thank you for your patience and understanding.
Sumter, SC (March, 21, 2020, 10AM)
I want to thank the citizens of Sumter who are taking the COVID-19 threat seriously. My heart and prayers go out to all who have contracted this virus and especially to those who have lost loved ones. People and pastors all over Sumter are vigorously praying for guidance, protection, and deliverance. As I said in a proclamation I issued on Thursday, we will have a day of thanksgiving when this challenge ends.
On behalf of all citizens, I want to thank all medical personnel who are on the front lines of this pandemic. The same is true of our first responders, the Sumter Police Department, the Sumter Fire Department, the Sumter County Sheriff’s Department, and, of course, emergency medical technicians. They put their own health and lives on the line daily as this situation unfolds. Service to others is not new to these protectors, but the danger they face now is insidious and we know too little about it. Let’s pray daily for them.
I also ask for continued prayers for our neighbors who are stationed at Shaw Air Force Base. While many members of these families are spread around the world defending our country, they now face another threat, which their loved ones must face at home without them. All of this as the 20th Fighter Wing prepares to deploy contingents.
I just took part in an online conference that had experts in crisis management and communicable disease on the speakers’ panel. What we learned will be helpful for future threats, but there is a lot that the experts do not know now. One speaker said the issue right now is more of a logistical problem than a health issue: how do we get what is needed, where it is needed and when it is needed? Experts know that there are unreported cases out there. Some believe there are 100 unreported cases for every confirmed case. The things we are being asked to do now are going to hopefully decrease the number of new cases so that our healthcare system can manage the COVID-19 cases and the normal things that must go on in a hospital from day to day.
Experts know that, if we do not practice “social distancing” and do the other things that are being suggested, there will be a barrage of new cases that will overwhelm the system. If we practice those recommendations, we can reduce new cases or reduce the frequency of new cases. We do not want a situation where a person with a serious heart problem, for example, cannot get treatment because virus victims are filling all beds and using all ventilators.
I am proud of the way that Sumterites are responding to the requests for separation. I see no need for us to have a curfew at this time. Many are working from home and staying at home. Schools have closed and our District is working to make sure that children get what they need. Sumter United Ministries is preparing to help the neediest among us. Santee Senior Services has made arrangements to get food to our senior citizens. As I said, our first responders are protecting themselves, while serving our citizens. City and County government offices are working together to adjust operations to minimize contact. Businesses and restaurants are really going to suffer, but they are finding safe, new ways to sell their products while protecting employees and the public.
I have just a few requests:
- Parents, I know you were not planning to have kids home all day. I know it can be tough to find childcare. But “social separation” must be practiced by children too. Don’t have “play dates” or other gatherings. Children can get this too. Do your best to follow the “separation rules.”
- Young adults, the same applies to you. Young people ARE contracting COVID-19, although admittedly at a lower level than older people and those with “underlying medical conditions.” However, every one of us has someone who is at high risk whom we love. So, follow the rules for those people. Do not congregate in groups.
- For businesses that are staying open, please find ways to enforce separation when customers are in your grocery store or picking up takeout food. For instance, I was in a pharmacy last night which had yellow tape marking off ten foot intervals for customers waiting in line.
- For all residents and visitors, if you have symptoms—fever, coughing, and shortness of breath, to mention the ones most often mentioned—call a doctor or Prisma Tuomey to arrange a virtual appointment online: prismahealth.org/virtual-visit.
- If an elderly or otherwise high-risk person is a neighbor, safely check on them and help them get essentials if you can. If you cannot do it safely and suspect something is wrong, report that fact to law enforcement.
- You can find very detailed instructions for what to do during this time on the Center for Disease Control (CDC) website: coronavirus.gov.
- Our caring agencies and charities will need financial help as they are stretched financially to take care of the vulnerable beyond what they could have anticipated. If you can, donate to help.
I know that Sumter will do what is right and what is smart to get to the other side of this crisis. I believe that the best people in the world live here, and you are going to prove me right again.
Thank you and may God continue to bless our community.
Mayor Joe McElveen
Sumter, SC (March 18, 2020, 5PM)
- The Mayor is hosting a “Day of Thanksgiving and Prayer” Thursday, March 19. We ask all churches and people of faith to lift up prayers for God’s protection over our community that we will have few infections and that those infected will survive and be restored to health. Thank you and may God continue to bless our Sumter community. Join us tomorrow! Click here to read the full proclamation.
- At this time all public performances have been postponed or canceled through Sunday, April 5th. We are also instituting additional measures in regards to our Box Office. All in person sales have been halted through April 5th. The Box Office will be available for phone sales (803-436-2616) Monday through Friday 8:30 am to 5 pm. Tickets are available 24/7 online at SumterOperaHouse.com. Questions can also be submitted at our website via the CONTACT US link. We will reevaluate these changes as more information is available. Please check back with us for updates.
- The City has suspended all scheduled event and procession permits and street closures. Additionally, any new requests received will not be considered until we resume normal business functions.
- All in person sales at the Visitors Center have been suspended. You may make a payment to your rental contract over the phone by calling 803-436-2640.
- We’re asking for every person to consider giving blood during this challenging time, and we are asking you as the mayor to help communicate this critical need. Those who are healthy and eligible to give blood or platelets are urged to make an appointment to donate as soon as possible by using the Red Cross Blood Donor App, visiting RedCrossBlood.org or calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767).
Sumter, SC (March 17, 2020 6:30PM)
In the interest of public safety and to help minimalize the exposure to COVID-19 (Coronavirus), the City of Sumter will be modifying operations effective March 17-31. We will reevaluate these changes as more information is available. Considering recommendations made by the CDC and SC DHEC, access to certain city facilities will be restricted to the public:
CITY HALL (HUMAN RESOURCES/ADMINISTRATION) (21 N. MAIN STREET)
Access will be limited. Offices may be reached by phone at 803-436-2500.
FIRE DEPARTMENT (ALL STATIONS)
All stations are restricted and not be able to receive any food, goodies, or etc. from the public at this time. The building will be locked down and only Fire Department personnel will be allowed in. This includes family members, retirees, other City Employees unless otherwise approved by the Fire Chief. For emergencies call 9-1-1 or non-emergencies call 803-436-2600.
LIBERTY CENTER (PLANNING, BUSINESS LICENSE, BUILDING PERMITS, EVENTS, COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT) (12 W. LIBERTY STREET)
Access to the facility is limited. All visitors must enter through back entrance only. Faster service desks have been moved into the hallway to help expedite customers
PUBLIC SERVICES (303 E. LIBERTY STREET)
- Garbage collection remains on schedule.
- Recycling services remain on schedule.
- Yard debris will remain on schedule.
- Utility repairs will not be affected. If you are experiencing any issues, please call 803-436-2558.
TENNIS CENTER (411 THEATRE DRIVE) & AQUATICS CENTER (1115 S. LAFAYETTE BLVD)
All scheduled programming is cancelled. Free play is open; however, neither facility will have loaner equipment available to the public.
UTILITY BILLING DEPARTMENT (130 S. HARVIN STREET)
The lobby at our Utility Billing Department, located at 130 S. Harvin Street is closed. At this time, only the drive-thru window will remain open.
The following services can be performed online at www.sumtersc.gov/utilities/accounts:
- Pay Your Bill.
- Start New Service.
- Stop Service.
- Request Temporary Service.
- Start a Bank Draft.
Our customer service representatives remain available to the public via email at email@example.com or phone 803-436-2541.
VISITORS CENTER (822 W. LIBERTY STREET)
All events and rental requests have been cancelled and/or postponed. For more info call 803-436-2640.
Sumter, SC (March 16, 2020, 10:30AM)
Until further notice, the City of Sumter will be closing the lobby to the public at our Utility Billing Department, located at 130 S. Harvin Street. At this time, the drive-thru window will remain open.
Additionally, the following services can be performed online at www.sumtersc.gov/utilities/accounts:
- Pay Your Bill.
- Start New Service.
- Stop Service.
- Request Temporary Service.
- Start a Bank Draft.
Our customer service representatives remain available to the public via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 803-436-2541 (Monday-Friday 8:30-5:00). If you have any concerns over service disruptions, please call our office directly.
Sumter, SC (March 13, 2020, 4PM)
To help minimalize the exposure of COVID-19, we would like to encourage all customers to pay your bill online. You may register to pay or make a one-time payment, depending on your preference.
Our system allows VISA, MASTERCARD, DISCOVER AND ECHECK.
To complete this process, all you need is your account number from your paper bill. Payments made after 5PM will be posted the next business day. For each payment, you will receive a confirmation number for your records.
If you have questions about your bill, please call 803-436-2541 or visit our online account services at https://www.sumtersc.gov/utilities/accounts.
Thank you for your patience and understanding.
Sumter, SC (March 13, 2020, 12PM)
Additional links from the CDC on COVID-19 illness prevention:
What to do if you are sick. (Remember, if you are experiencing symptoms, Prisma Health Tuomey Hospital encourages you to do a FREE virtual test. Just enter the promo code COVID19 on their site, which is accessible by your mobile device or computer.) Click here to Prisma's virtual site.
Sumter, SC (March 12, 2020)
As the coronavirus (COVID-19) cases continue to rise, our community must take steps necessary to reduce the risk of exposure.
The national and state directives are very explicit in what you need to be doing to minimize an outbreak of coronavirus. Most of which are common sense factors in line with safe hygiene and personal habits:
- Frequently, vigorously and thoroughly wash hands with soap and water,
- Refrain from touching others – practice alternatives to customary greetings,
- Refrain from touching your own face and mouth,
- Cover your nose and mouth when you cough or sneeze,
- Stay at home if you are sick.
The City of Sumter is taking this seriously and are stressing safe practices with all of our employees and in all office facilities. We are encouraging all employees who have symptoms of acute respiratory illness to stay home, provided hand hygiene products to all government departments, and perform routine cleaning.
As we move forward we will be evaluating meetings and events on an ongoing basis and will keep the public aware of any changes or updates to our scheduling.
I encourage our entire community to stay in constant contact with your friends, family and neighbors to make sure we are all safe during this time; however, remember to do so with safety in mind.
There is still a lot that the experts do not know about this virus. However, they seem to agree that the elderly and those with underlying medical problems are at the greatest risk. It has been reported that the virus does not cause some people any problems; but those people can affect others. Even in you are not at high risk for infection, you certainly care about someone who is. We have all seen how rapidly this virus can expand. However, do not panic, just be smart and safe.
Below, we have provided links to credible sources for information on what to do and how to minimalize impact.
Thank you and may God bless. Mayor Joe McElveen
Local Sumter Updates:
If you are experiencing symptoms, Prisma Health Tuomey encourages you to do a FREE virtual test. Just enter the promo code COVID19 on their site, which is accessible by your mobile device or computer. Click here to visit their virtual site.