A reminder popped up on the phone Thursday: “I am fully protected with the vaccine.”
Several reactions at the same time:
- “Hallelujah! Finally!”
- “How could you forget something this big and why did you need a reminder?”
- Utter relief
Normalcy is slowly approaching after the lost year of COVID-19. As of Thursday, the state had received 2.5 million doses of vaccine. Medical professionals so far have administered 1.8 million doses, which means the state has used 72% of the on-hand supply that is continuing to come into the Palmetto State. Almost 640,000 people in South Carolina — about 13% of the state’s population — are fully vaccinated. Another 1.1 million people, 23% of the state, have received one of two shots. That means more than a third of the people in the state (minus a few outsiders who broke rules to get shots here) are fully or partially protected from the virus that has whacked America for the last year.
Gov. Henry McMaster on Thursday said the state deserved an A or an A-plus for how it handled the pandemic over the last year, pointing to its limited, targeted shutdown of businesses that he said reopened quickly and kept the economy thriving.
“I think that we did as well or better than any other state in the country,” McMaster said at an event sponsored by The Post and Courier.
Sorry, governor, but that is nothing but Trumpian hubris, revisionist history and pure spin. South Carolina for months has been a state at high risk for people to get the virus. It remains so today, according to a risk assessment by The New York Times. The main reason: We never took the virus as seriously as places like Australia and Finland. Also, our federal government initially had a shoddy, doubting response that put people in harm’s way.
First, how’s this for an A-plus: Just over 8,000 people in South Carolina have died from COVID-19. That’s how many people live in Seneca, Hartsville or Moncks Corner. Imagine how that number would have been far less had the state responded by putting people first, not businesses.
At the Thursday event, McMaster noted, “One life lost is a tragedy, but this was a pandemic. We had no understanding of how to react.”
That doesn’t sound like an observation that goes with a state that had an A-plus response.
Second, it’s not time for a victory lap. Yes, some things have been relaxed because lots of older Americans have been vaccinated. For example, it’s easier to visit folks in nursing homes. The Centers for Disease Control says it’s OK for two vaccinated people to socialize in their homes. But people are still getting the disease.
Some 30.1 million Americans have contracted the virus that has killed more than a half million of our fellow countrymen and women. Almost 70,000 contracted it in just one day this week; about 40,000 remain hospitalized. In South Carolina on Thursday, state officials reported 51 new cases of the virus — far fewer than the 2,000 daily cases just a few weeks ago. But we’re not out of the woods. State officials reported 31 deaths Thursday.
Finally, let’s not relax yet. We need to keep wearing masks, washing our hands and socially distancing in public places.
A guy sauntered into a Charleston coffee shop this week without a mask. When challenged by one of the dozen other customers, he ranted about not believing in masks and said he didn’t have to wear one. When told the city had an ordinance requiring masks, he ignored the common good, mired in a gloating selfishness. The management asked him to leave.
We’ll get through this pandemic. In a couple of months, as the majority of Americans who want vaccines get them, people will be able to take the vacation they didn’t have last year.
Hundreds of thousands of more doses of the vaccine are headed to the state. Phase 1C of the vaccination effort should start as soon as April 12. All South Carolina adults should be eligible in May.
This ain’t over ‘til it’s over — or until some fat lady sings. But the day is coming soon. For now, remain vigilant and keep up your guard.
Andy Brack is publisher of the Charleston City Paper. Have a comment? Send to: firstname.lastname@example.org.