It was a split decision on two events slated for March in Myrtle Beach as COVID-19 concerns cast a shadow on gatherings.
With the mandatory mask mandate for public buildings and businesses extended through the end of the month as well as the state order limiting crowd sizes to 50 or less without a state-authorized exemption, the Myrtle Beach City Council pushed back the date of one event and tabled discussion for another planned event.
The Spring Break Extravaganza was originally scheduled for Feb. 27-April 17 at Plyler Park. City leaders voted on Tuesday to push the start date to March 15. It will still be held from noon-8 p.m. and include music, glitter tattoos, a tie-dye shirt station, a bounce house, popsicles and strolling characters.
The event is being put on by Heroes 4 Hire and the Oceanfront Merchants Association (OMA).
Troy Marron with the city’s special events office said the groups have applied for and received an exemption from the state based on crowd size. But, Marron said, the groups expect about 250 people daily over the eight hours of the event.
The extravaganza is a rebranding of an annual event that has been at Plyler Park since 2013, Marron said. The event is contained within the park off Ocean Boulevard at the end of Mr. Joe White Avenue.
“We need to be careful,” said councilman Mike Chestnut on a possible need to close the event down immediately if the crowd size swells.
The second event discussed was the St. Patrick’s Day Party slated for March 17 from noon-8 p.m. at Plyler Park.
Council members agreed to discuss the event at the next council meeting in two weeks.
Marron said OMA expects about 250 people to attend the free event. He said there will be a gate and monitor to limit the crowd size to 250 at any given time.
He added OMA and Heroes 4 Hire have been granted an exemption by the state allowing for the crowd size to exceed 50 people at once.
And, he said, in addition to music and vendors there will be alcohol served at the event.
“I realize this is the same location as the other event,” Mayor Brenda Bethune said. “But St. Patrick’s Day is typically known as a big party day and this event is happening on one day. I have some concerns about this.”
Earlier in the meeting, Myrtle Beach Fire Chief Tom Gwyer gave the council updates on the city’s efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19.
He said there have been 473 virus-related deaths in Horry County and nearly 30,000 positive cases in the county. He said 2,747 positive cases are within the city’s 29577 zip code and 983 positive cases are in the 29572 zip code on the north end of the city.
But, he said, the recovery rate for the virus is more than 88%.
Gwyer said the county hospital census shows 628 beds are occupied for a rate of slightly more than 90%. Of the 628, there are 133 COVID-19 patients and 36 of those patients are in intensive care units with 15 patients on ventilators. Gwyer said there are 100 ventilators available in the county.
The virus continues to target the elderly with 18 residents and 19 staff members testing virus positive at Myrtle Beach Manor; there are 13 residents and one staff member testing positive at Brightwater retirement and assisted living facility; 13 residents and four staff members are positive at National HealthCare; and two residents are virus-positive at Portside at Grande Dunes.
He said the city’s workforce is also affected with 20 employees quarantined — nine from the police department, six from public works, two from building maintenance and one each from the fire department, city hall and finance.
Gwyer said the fire department has been approved to be a vaccine provider and is awaiting a shipment of vaccines to administer.