City advised to follow county’s lead on easing COVID-19 rules
By Bobby Bryant, Editor
The City of Darlington probably will relax its COVID-19 precautions “around May,” just as the county government is planning to do. At City Council’s April 13 meeting, Darlington Police Chief Kelvin Washington advised council to follow the county’s lead as the COVID cloud seems to be lifting after more than a year of worry and precautions by local governments. “The county, in relation to the Courthouse, is going to be loosening restrictions around May,” Washington said. “ … I would recommend to the city that we do the same thing, that we just follow suit with whatever the county’s doing at the Courthouse.” Since the pandemic began last year, both the city and the county have continued to operate, but with restrictions. The Courthouse and City Hall both have essentially been closed to the public except by appointment. At the Courthouse, Darlington County Sheriff’s Office deputies staff the one entranceway that remains open. Many people drop off paperwork with the deputies; visitors who’ve made an appointment with a county staffer must have their temperature scanned and wait for the staffer to come downstairs and escort them up to an office. County Council continues to restrict its meetings to council members and essential staff, but meetings are live-streamed online. City Council has resumed letting the public into its meetings, but masks and social distancing are required. Council meets in the courtroom at City Hall, and staffers have used tape to mark off safe distances along the wooden benches where spectators sit. “I reached out to a couple of jurisdictions across the state,” Washington told council. “They’re doing things similar to what we’re doing. Some of them have opened the doors so people can come in. They have quite a few restrictions.” “Technically, (Darlington city government) never really closed,” Washington said. “We have been doing business … with restricted access.” The chief said that, assuming the city does relax its precautions, it will be up to council to decide on whatever restrictions might still be necessary, such as social distancing or masks. “I would probably recommend to council to maybe consider purchasing (temperature) scanners at the Pearl Street entrance (to City Hall) as well as the entrance to the Police Department,” Washington said.