We are asking Why. Not to point out problems but to bring out possible solutions. Today we ask, “Why is South Carolina Losing the Fight Against Covid-19?”
Wednesday, the New York Times reported that South Carolina has the highest number of new cases of COVID-19 per 100,000 people of any state in the country in the past week. How did we get here?
Rise in Covid Among Children
With the start of school, Covid cases have risen dramatically. Among children aged 0 to 10 years old, DHEC reports there were 85 cases statewide for the week ending June 19. Last week, that number had escalated to 5,391 cases in the state.
In the weekly virtual news conference on Wednesday afternoon, DHEC medical consultant Dr. Jonathan Knoch said the rise in cases among young people indicates the need for those around them to take action: “Many of these cases are among those who are too young to get vaccinated, so they are relying on parents or siblings and the rest of the eligible population in their community to protect them through vaccinations and masking and other safety protocols.”
DHEC’s call for masking in schools remains a hot button issue and Governor McMaster continues to ignore the science and ask that parents be allowed to decide for their children if mask are appropriate. This stance is in direct conflict with CDC guidance: Due to the circulating and highly contagious Delta variant, CDC recommends universal indoor masking by all students (age 2 and older), staff, teachers, and visitors to K-12 schools, regardless of vaccination status.
Joe Cunningham released this statement on South Carolina’s Covid situation:
“The disappointing reality is that Governor McMaster sees COVID-19 as more of a political threat to himself than a public health threat to the people he represents. He has chosen to ignore the advice of anyone who asks him to take it seriously, including his own health experts, parents, teachers, and even legislators from his own party. Instead, he has bent over backwards to appease a small but loud minority of conspiracy theorists and extremists who believe COVID is a hoax and masks do not work. Thanks to Governor McMaster’s selfishness and incompetence, schools are closing, hospitals are at capacity, and people are dying – and there’s no end in sight. I implore Governor McMaster to step up and do his job before it’s too late – or step aside for someone who will.”
Low Covid Vaccination Rates
As cited in DHEC’s statement Wednesday, South Carolina’s low vaccination rates are contributing to the spread of the virus across the state. As of Wednesday, only 47.8% of eligible South Carolina residents have been fully vaccinated. This number places South Carolina 41th in the nation for vaccination rate.
In a news conference Wednesday, Roper Saint Francis addressed the idea of vaccine hesitancy in blunt terms. “The single thing people can do that will help hospital workers “get back to the business of caring for all the needs of the community….There is a really good reason to get the vaccine. It will save your life,” he said. “There are a thousand reasons people have made up not to get the vaccine and each one of those is nonsense.”
As hospitalizations rise across the state, stretching healthcare workers to their limits, on thing remains constant; 90% of people in the hospital for Covid related issues are not vaccinated.
Poor State Leadership
Despite the incredible rise in Covid infections in his state, Governor McMaster has stayed largely silent on the topic. His last statement on Twitter that mentions the virus was over a week ago and merely suggests that people get vaccinated. Prior to that, he posted on August 20th asking that parents decide the mask issue in schools. In June, McMaster lifted South Carolina’s state of emergency associated with the COVID pandemic and has not re-visited the topic in the face of rising numbers of infection.
“There is an incredibly visible lack of coordinated public health policy (in South Carolina),” Dr. Robert Oliverio, vice president and chief medical officer of Roper St. Francis, said at a press conference near Roper Hospital in downtown Charleston to address the urgency of the situation. “We have, oddly enough, declared it’s no longer a public health emergency,” he added. “Frankly, I’m seeing otherwise.”
South Carolina reported 31,458 new Covid infections last week and 230 people died from the virus. It’s clear from the data that many of these deaths were unnecessary.
Where Do We Go From Here
If you are concerned about the rising infections of children in our schools. If the rise in preventable deaths troubles you. You need to speak out.
- Tell people about your vaccination experience. Studies show personal conversations are much more effective ion getting people off the fence regarding the Covid vaccine.
- Tell the Governor to lead the way as we fight this pandemic together and end divisive and politically motivated rhetoric that goes against basic science
- Wear a mask as it is still the best way to stop transmission, especially in indoor settings
- Tell your public school administrators that you demand a safer environment for your children
We have the tools to defeat this pandemic. Unfortunately, doing nothing is not an option. Too many people are dying in our hospitals while perfectly good solutions are ignored.