We hear news about COV-19 – also known as the coronavirus or Wuhan virus – every day. People catch it, people get sick from it. Most people recover. Too many people die from it. None of us can know if we carry it until symptoms appear, often as much as two weeks after we catch it. We practice “social distancing” – mostly that means staying at home or keeping a six-foot separation from others elsewhere – to help curtail its contagious spread.
The coronavirus originated in bats. Usually viruses do not cross over from one species to another. But COV-19 did, making the leap to human beings in or near Wuhan, China. As we are all too aware, it is also highly contagious. The virus can be carried in exhaled air from a carrier, which can then be inhaled by someone else close by.
Research will lead to a vaccine, but that is not likely to be until late this year or sometime in 2021. In the meantime, life must go on. More immediately, people who have recovered from COV-19 are being asked to donate blood plasma, which contains the antibodies their bodies generated to fight off the virus. After processing, that can be injected into other people, where those antibodies will “teach” their new hosts how to fend off COV-19. The malaria drugs like hydroxychloroquine are also being used to treat the sick.
Businesses, schools, and government agencies are closed. Businesses are making less money. People are out of work, so they make less money. That means less tax money; government revenue goes down – just when emergency services are most needed.
It is expected that due to all efforts against COV-19, the proliferation of the virus will begin to taper off in the next few weeks.
Containment, Mitigation, Suppression of COV-19
Federal, state, and local governments are all involved in a coordinated effort to end the COV-19 “pandemic”. Their strategy includes three phases, or steps: containment, mitigating the spread, and suppression (treatment).
Currently, South Carolina is moving from the mitigation phase to the suppression phase.
The standard process for handling disasters is being used for the COV-19 issue. That means:
- Local government (County and City) – takes the actions necessary to overcome the problem.
- State government – manages and coordinates activities across South Carolina.
Federal government – supports efforts with assistance and money.
What the South Carolina government is doing
The Governor has the authority to declare a state of emergency and to issue executive orders. Both are limited to a duration of 15 days and cannot be extended. The first declaration by the Governor, titled “Possibility of a Public Health Emergency” was declared on March 13th; it expired on the 28th. He then declared a second state of emergency, titled “Actual Public Health Emergency”. The second will expire on April 13th, at which time the General Assembly – the State Senate and House – can vote to extend it.
The Financial Impact of COV-19
The U.S. Congress passed the second CARE Act to address the impact of the closing of businesses. The CARE Act includes unemployment benefits, loans (at 4% for ten years) and grants to small businesses, and other employer and employee benefits.
The State’s income is from three primary sources: income tax, sales tax, and business taxes. Obviously, all three amounts will be lower for the next year. The annual State budget was written in early March, but the events since then made that budget no longer realistic. With the amount of day-to-day changes occurring currently due to the virus, the size of the budget reduction depends mainly on how quickly a recovery occurs, which is anybody’s guess.
As a result, the production of a reasonable budget by the General Assembly is not expected to be possible until late this year. In the meantime, the General Assembly will use Continuing Resolutions to authorize State funding.
For Mauldin, as for most cities and towns in South Carolina, a large portion of the City budget is paid for by the State’s Local Government Fund, which is distributed by the State as a percentage of the State’s budget. The good news is that during the period of Continuing Resolutions, that percentage will remain unchanged.
But with the decline in State revenue, Mauldin City government (and that of other towns) will be receiving less money as well. Mauldin’s fiscal 2021 budget runs from July 2020 through June 2021. Expect Mauldin’s budget to be less than it was last year as a result.
Mauldin is in great shape financially, with a top credit rating. Mauldin is situated far better than many other South Carolina towns for riding out the coming economic downturn, but like everyone, the City must tighten its belt. The alternative, increased taxes, would be a double whammy for City residents, many or most of whom are already dealing with reduced incomes as well.
Where We Go From Here
On March 24th, South Carolina was projected to have 329 cases of COV-19; we had 278.
On April 1st, the South Carolina was projected to have 1700 cases of COV-19; we had 1083.
This is viewed as indicating that the containment and mitigation steps of the overall strategy can work, and that the State did a good job of making it work.
A lack of data hampers efforts, however. A big focus right now is obtaining blood plasma from COV-19 survivors, in the time after recovery while antibodies are still present. But the coordination with hospitals to gather data and organize efforts to obtain the plasma has not yet occurred.
SC DHEC is responsible for this kind of effort. But at this point there is no collection of records of who has been discharged from hospitals. People who just stayed home with “a bad cold”, of course, are not being recorded as having COV-19 at all. Yet their blood plasma would be valuable to others as well.
The processed plasma can be injected into other people not yet infected with COV-19, causing their bodies to build up sufficient antibodies against the virus. This is especially critical for Fire, Police, and other first-responders, not only to help with handling COV-19 cases, but to assure their health during any more-typical kind of emergency which might randomly put them fact-to-face with a virus carrier.
Currently, there is no intention of delaying State and National Primaries and Elections in South Carolina.
The 2020 Census…Important!
Life goes on and will. It is important for each of us to participate in the U.S. Census, which is taking place in 2020. The amounts apportioned to the state and to the localities by the federal government is based on population size. All voting districts – Congressional, State Senate, State House, Schools, City districts, and more are reapportioned every ten years based on population. This year you can participate in the census online. Go to “2020census.gov” to fill out your census information. It takes just a few minutes and will have a big effect on your life.
Thanks to our State Representative, Garry Smith, for providing much of the information for this article. His experience, dedication, and determination make him a valuable asset to us and to everyone in South Carolina.■