Commentary, Local

South Carolina’s Long-Term Preparedness for COVID-19 Consequences

Editor’s note: Several events have transpired since this article was written on 14 April. Changes to the plan have been implemented and infection numbers have escalated, receded and now risen again. The appropriateness of this article shows the awareness of the national media on South Carolina and our representative Garry Smith. It is an honor to reprint this article from The Washington Times.

It is hard to believe that only about a month ago, we were all living our lives as normal. The novel coronavirus has certainly moved quickly. The ramifications of this pandemic, and the policies put in place to stop it, are going to be long felt, and we need to begin preparing for the pandemics of a different kind that COVID-19 will leave behind.

The most obvious one is the impact this is having on the economy. Nearly 181,000 jobs have been lost here in South Carolina in the last three weeks. Across the country, 16 million Americans have filed for unemployment. That is about 10% of our national workforce.

Minneapolis Federal Reserve President Neel Kashkari told CNBC over the weekend that Americans face a “long, hard road.” Kashkari sees “various phases of rolling flare ups” with “different parts of the economy turning back on, maybe turning back off again.”

The country cannot keep that up forever. That is the beauty of our federal system – we do not have to. What is best for one state is not necessarily right elsewhere. Many states have taken extreme measures. They are doing what they think is best to stop the spread and flatten the curve.

That makes sense for New Jersey, the densest state in the union. Or, New York and California, that have the two largest cities in the country. That might be true for big cities in other states too. But what makes sense for a city like New York with a population density of 27,000 people per square mile is not the same as an entire state like South Carolina with a population density of 162 people per square mile.

That is why the president is right with his “locally-executed, state-managed and federally supported” response plan. States have different infection rates, different peaks and different returns to normalcy. The states should be prepared to reopen their economies when they see fit.

But the economy is not the only area that will see long term consequences from this shutdown. Our educational system, already in need of drastic reform before now needs it more than ever. We can avoid the educational pandemic, but states must open their digital offerings. Sever

al states are planning to keep schools closed for the entire academic year. The need is obvious.

Our health care system must also be made more resilient to pandemics. Telemedicine, for example, is preventing hospitals from being overwhelmed by allowing people to consult with a medical professional for minor issues from the comfort of their home. It is also allowing people currently experiencing loneliness to talk with a mental health expert. But telemedicine can help us long after the pandemic as well. American health care is top notch because it is dynamic and innovative, telehealth should be embraced.

We will get through the COVID-19 pandemic, but we must prepare ourselves for the long-term consequences of it – and our response. Our way of life will never be the same, but we should fix what went wrong while trying to return to normalcy across the states as quickly as possible.

Garry Smith is a member of the South Carolina House of Representatives and represents District 27. He currently serves as Chairman of the House Operations and Management Committee.
Follow him on Twitter @GarryRSmith.■

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