March 27, 2020
Sent Via Email
Governor, We haven’t even seen the height of this pandemic yet, and while I appreciate the fact that just days after my first two letters, asking that you close all SC schools and allow nonessential state employees to work remotely, you did that. And I thank you. Those were great first steps to help begin to slow the spread of this deadly virus. But there’s still so much more we must do. After losing my friend, Jack West, and watching helplessly as other South Carolinians continue to succumb to this virus, I’m writing today out of dire concern and a genuine sense of urgency. When we spoke via phone last Sunday, the United States had not yet surpassed Italy and China in the number of confirmed positive COVID-19 cases, which at last count, was 82,000+, with 1,100+ deaths—making our country the new epicenter of the world. DHEC had not yet projected that almost 3,000 South Carolinians would test positive for COVID-19 by April 2nd and 8,000+ by May 2nd. All of that has changed now. Those numbers alone are exponentially alarming and yet you insist that you still have no plans to issue a Shelter-in-Place Order because you don’t believe one is warranted, based on the science and data. If that’s the case, I would respectfully ask if you’re looking at the same data that I am...the same data that my constituents and other concerned and in many cases, petrified citizens of South Carolina, are. All we need to do is glance at the numbers...the science...and the data which projects almost 3,000 confirmed positive cases by next week and over 8,000 a few weeks later. And it’s easy to see why people are scared or panicked. Sadly, those numbers are probably conservative, since SC doesn’t have nearly enough tests or the infrastructure to read and process the tests we do have. I agree with you that South Carolinians are respectful, courteous, generous, smart and resilient. My friend, Jack, embodied all of those amazing qualities too, but he’s no longer with us because of this virus. Perhaps we didn’t know enough about COVID-19 to have prevented his exposure, but we know now. Imagine how many lives we’ll save if we act aggressively and responsibly, now. On Monday, I followed up with you concerning the issues I asked you to consider. To date, I haven’t received an answer, and time is of the essence. The people of South Carolina still have questions and concerns, all of which are relevant, critically important and deserving of your immediate attention: 1. Doctors, nurses, EMS and other first responders, medical personnel, funeral directors and embalmers are still in need of critical Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). And while nothing about this virus is “standard,” licensed funeral directors and embalmers are being advised to follow their standard “universal” protocols and procedures for confirmed or suspected positive COVID-19 cases. Q: When can those who provide emergency, medical and death care on the front lines expect to be equipped with the life-saving PPE AND protocol adjustments they desperately need?
2. This virus is quickly accelerating and hasn’t yet peaked here in SC, so the time to issue a Shelter-in-place Order is now. You’ve told me you consider that to be a “last resort,” and I continue to respectfully disagree because it could certainly help to slow community spread, allow us to get a better handle on our numbers and mitigate the harm that is being caused by those who may unwittingly spread and expose others because they’re asymptomatic.
Q: If you don’t see the need to issue a Shelter-in-place Order now, what factors would have to change before you do? Are you waiting on the manifestation of actual exposures or deaths that the current data already projects?
3. We know that our fragile healthcare system can’t withstand the influx of patients and levels of care that will be required to adequately meet the needs of all SC citizens during this crisis.
Q: Will you use your “emergency powers” to expand Medicaid and reopen our rural hospitals, even temporarily, to help prevent overload and possible collapse of our hospitals and healthcare system and help to ensure access to healthcare for all South Carolinians?
4. During this “state of emergency,” agency maintenance, food service, cafeteria, custodial, corrections, juvenile corrections, security, safety and other essential personnel are on the front lines, working around the clock to ensure that critical operations and services continue without disruption.
Q: Will you mandate that in lieu of “compensatory time,” state agencies implement “crisis or emergency pay” for essential state employees who make less than $50,000 annually?
Governor, this isn’t about partisan politics. It’s certainly not about pandering. It’s all about the people of SC and doing what’s right and responsible to better protect them during this global pandemic.
Yesterday, you said that “business is our life-blood,” and “the business of SC is business.”
With all due respect, Governor, you’re wrong.
The people of South Carolina are the life-blood of this state. And your failure to act will leave their blood on your hands…