Charleston is the first city in South Carolina to adopt a stay-at-home ordinance effective at 12:01 a.m. today, Thursday, March 26, 2020. Citizens may travel to work at a business that provides an “essential service” or may travel to conduct business with an “essential service” provider. Essential services includes 11 types of essential operations: health care, infrastructure, manufacturing, retail, specified service operations, news media, financial institutions and professional businesses, providers of basic necessities to economically disadvantaged populations, construction (see below), defense operations, and operations related to safety and sanitation. The ordinance specifically states that construction is an essential service:
Construction including skilled trades such as electrician, plumbers, or related construction firms and professionals for essential infrastructure or for emergency repair and safety purposes, other construction where the contractor can ensure social distancing.
It appears that projects involving road/bridge/storm water/water/sewer and other types of infrastructure projects are essential and can continue. The ordinance does not specifically mention schools, although one might argue that a school project falls within infrastructure. General commercial projects are essential only if the contractor can “ensure” social distancing, which will certainly be challenging. Contractors will have to work diligently to schedule trades and conduct the work to permit distancing. This may will likely result in inefficiencies, escalation of cost, and time delays that to be addressed immediately by Project owners, contractors and design professionals involved in those projects. Project participants must review contracts relating to force majeure events and change orders.
If you have employees that are doing to travel for a construction project in Charleston, provide them with a letter on company letterhead explaining that they are going to work on a construction project that is for essential infrastructure, for emergency repair and safety or that the contracture has adopted policies to ensure social distancing. If authorities stop them, they will have something to show where they are going.