There is good news and bad news this week related to the ongoing spread of the 2019-2020 coronavirus in South Carolina. First, the good news: There appears to be a light at the end of the tunnel for this global pandemic – which originated last fall in Wuhan, China.
Recently released projections show the brunt of the virus hitting our nation over the next two to four weeks – with infections, hospitalizations and deaths gradually receding thereafter before “bottoming out” on or around June 1.
The bad news? The next month is going to be brutal.
These projections provide the first sense of real context for the future trajectory of the coronavirus – allowing policymakers at all levels of government to begin planning accordingly.
U.S. president Donald Trump amended his approach to the virus on Sunday, scrapping his call for America to reopen for business by Easter Sunday (April 14, 2020) and instead extending his administration’s guidance for Americans to remain in their homes through April 30.
“(Trump) looked at the data and he got it right away,” Dr. Anthony Fauci – director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) – told CNN over the weekend. “It was a pretty clear picture.”
Now the ball is in the court of South Carolina governor Henry McMaster, who is under growing pressure to institute a so-called “shelter-in-place” order for the Palmetto State.
Will he? It’s looking increasingly likely …
“Henry was waiting for Trump,” a source familiar with the governor’s thinking told this news outlet. “He needed Trump to give him the political cover.”
Also, spikes in reported cases are expected this week as the anemic testing being conducted by the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control (SCDHEC) starts to ramp up – and as the agency works its way through a massive backlog of tests.
Accurate or not, these test results (and surges in reported cases) will likely spur McMaster to action …
So far, our news outlet has not taken a position on the issuance of a stay-at-home order. We addressed this issue extensively in a post five days ago, sounding a skeptical tone as to both its legality and practicality.
“We have no problem with McMaster issuing a broadly defined ‘shelter in place’ order, however we have serious doubts as to whether it will do much of anything to change the situation on the ground,” we wrote at the time.
We remain skeptical as to the efficacy and enforceability of such an order – particularly seeing as most non-essential work in the Palmetto State has already ground to a halt (and seeing as thousands of South Carolinians may have previously contracted the coronavirus long before state government began tracking it).
Having said that, based on the latest projected trend lines for the virus in the Palmetto State – and the forthcoming infusion of a massive federal stimulus for South Carolina residents – a broadly defined shelter in place order for the next two to three weeks appears to be the correct call.
Such an order may prove unnecessary in the long run, but McMaster ought to act out of an abundance of caution over the next two to three weeks as the worst of the virus ravages our state and our nation.
When it comes to the specifics of such an order, the devil is obviously in the details.
McMaster’s order must allow for residents to continue shopping at grocery stores, pickup or delivery restaurants and other essential household retail stores – while workers in other essential businesses (farmers, food processors, food distributors, utilities, etc.) are clearly needed now more than ever.
Ongoing access to medical facilities and pharmacies is also vital … as are gas stations and convenience stores.
And obviously residents who have elderly relatives or friends or family members with special needs must be allowed to help provide for them.
Which, of course, leads us to some questions from our post last week …
Who decides what constitutes an “essential” business? And on what criteria is such a decision based?
We expect to see furious lobbying on that front … and unfortunately, we have almost zero faith in the ability of the McMaster administration to make these calls based on merit as opposed to politics.
Hopefully he (or whoever is running his administration) will surprise us … but the early reports we are receiving from our sources are not encouraging on that front.
Also, McMaster’s stay-at-home order must preserve the ability of citizens to hold religious or political gatherings – although we strongly urge anyone considering such gatherings to postpone them for at least another month.
Especially if your faith tradition truly values life …
Again, we have genuine doubts as to whether a statewide stay-at-home order will make a material difference in the trajectory of the virus in South Carolina. But given the extent to which most of the state is already shut down – and the fact that such an order could reduce the impact of the virus – we believe McMaster should make the call.
With the caveats outlined above, of course …
“I think it saves lives,” a source familiar with the management of pandemics told us. “We are basically not allowed to work or take advantage of services/ retail, but we can still congregate socially. It is like being a little bit pregnant. If you’ve shut down our economy, make people stay home socially, too, and let’s knock this out faster.”
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