So far, the epicenter of the 2019-2020 coronavirus (known officially as 2019-nCoV or COVID-19) within the state of South Carolina has been Kershaw county – which is home to around 66,000 people and is located approximately thirty miles to the northeast of the state capital of Columbia, S.C.
Of the thirty-three confirmed or “presumptive positive” cases in the Palmetto State (as of 9:30 a.m. EDT on March 17, 2020), eighteen of them were from Kershaw county – one of which is said to be a lobbyist who was at the S.C. State House last week.
One lawmaker representing the impacted area is Laurie Slade Funderburk of Camden, S.C. Funderburk took office in June of 2004 after winning a special election. She has been reelected ever since – beating back GOP challengers in 2012 and 2018.
While Funderburk is facing Republican opposition again this fall, that is the furthest thing from her mind at the moment. As expected, her focus is almost exclusively on the coronavirus and its impact on her community.
We reached out to her this week as Kershaw county was in the throes of the virus to get her perspective on things.
A fan of social media hashtags, Funderburk highlighted a few of the reminders she has been sending to her constituents on a daily basis as efforts to control the spread of the virus intensify …
As Michael Stipe of R.E.M. once sang, those are all “Good Advices.”
Funderburk told us she was “emphasizing not gathering in groups and being extra mindful of individuals who may have underlying medical conditions or who are immunosuppressed or who are sixty and over, these being more vulnerable populations.”
She also stressed the need for social distancing … although she suggested we should probably call it something else.
“This is a time where we need to find ways to be connected while practicing physical distancing,” Funderburk said. “Someone on the radio said we should stop saying ‘social’ distancing and say ‘physical’ distancing. I thought that was a good point. Because we need to be able to still feel connected.”
Funderburk said she is encouraging her constituents to “find safe and creative ways to stay connected” during peak pandemic periods.
“Everyone must take this seriously,” she said. “We have to do our best to ‘flatten the curve’ and not exceed the capacity of our health care system so that those who are sick can get the attention and treatment they need.”
Online interactions are obviously a big part of maintaining social cohesiveness during periods of “physical distancing” – particularly in communities like Camden where the virus has shown signs of community spread.
“Many of our churches worshipped via YouTube or Facebook live on Sunday,” Funderburk told us. “Many events were cancelled. These are some of the things we are doing to prevent and slow the progression of this virus through our community.”
Speaking of online interactions, Funderburk added that health care providers needed to continue “working on ways to expand the reach of tele-health to help address capacity and keeping patients and our health care workers safe.”
We agree …
Bottom line? No one knows for sure how bad the coronavirus will wind up being – in South Carolina, across America or around the world. But it is clearly going to have deep and abiding health care, economic and cultural ramifications. And no matter what you believe regarding origins, its seriousness or what should have been done – or what we should be doing now – to better contain it, the fact remains we are all in this together now.
And while we have disagreed with Funderburk in the past (and will probably disagree with her in the future), she at least seems to get that basic reality …
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Banner: Columbia SC Photographer Travis Bell