The horrible surge in coronavirus cases being experienced in South Carolina has one root cause: a liberal impatience by conservatives who reopened the state too early. As a result, too many people have the disease. Too many will die as exhausted medical workers are at their breaking point.

If there's ever a textbook example that policy matters, it's in South Carolina's immature response to dealing with the silent terror of the pandemic. And now, officials trying to play catch up with mask ordinances and other measures that should have been in place long ago.

Just compare what happened in South Carolina, where Gov. Henry McMaster lightly shut down businesses for a few short weeks to states like New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, where governors locked things down tightly for much longer. Those places have flattened the curve — albeit with big economic hits. But the virus there is now manageable — as long as people are careful. Here, it's out of control.

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Let's go to the play-by-play for South Carolina:

April 6: McMaster issued a mandatory "home-or-work" order and established capacity limitations on retail businesses still operating. Cumulative cases: 2,232. S.C. deaths: 48.

April 21: McMaster created accelerateSC to coordinate the state's revitalization plan. He also lifted restrictions on public access points to beaches, piers, docks and wharfs. And he allowed reopening of some retail outlets. Cumulative cases: 4,601. S.C. deaths: 135.

May 1: McMaster announced the statewide work-or-home order would be lifted on May 4 and said restaurants could start outside dining service in addition to takeout, curbside and delivery services. Cumulative cases: 6,258. S.C. deaths: 256.

May 8: The governor announced restaurants would be able to open with limited dine-in services starting May 11. Cumulative cases: 7,367. S.C. deaths: 320.

May 20: More facilities are allowed to reopen, including zoos, museums and waterparks, as of May 22. Cumulative cases: 9,175. S.C. deaths: 407.

June 12: McMaster issues an order saying bowling alleys can open immediately and lifts restrictions on retail establishments. Cumulative cases: 17,170. S.C. deaths: 593.

July 2: South Carolina experienced 1,629 new cases and incurred an additional 19 deaths as health officials worried about effects on the pandemic from a holiday weekend. Cumulative cases: 39,587. S.C. deaths: 777.

Look at a chart of new confirmed cases and it's obvious a surge started in late May soon after Memorial Day as people flocked to beaches, reopened restaurants and other attractions. A relatively weak home-or-work order that lasted just four weeks seemed to keep down big increases in the virus. But once that was gone, numbers started creeping up, and then started to soar.

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What's sad about the whole situation is that the people who did what they should have by staying away from others, washing hands, wearing masks and being smart had lots of their time wasted by the impolite and impatient who ignored safety protocols and had a good time, oblivious and unconcerned about the toxic virus swirling in the air. Now they're getting increasingly sick.

As a state, we have to start all over — except that we have a governor and too many state officials who won't show the leadership to do what needs to happen to shut down the virus. Thank goodness some mayors and local councils are smart enough to mandate mask use, finally.

Unfortunately, we now need to stay at home again, limit shopping and cut out social activity. Who knows the coming economic impact? Our new normal needs to be filled with doorknob wipedowns, wearing of protective masks in public, obsessive washing of hands, refraining from touching your face, avoiding groups and even more social distancing.

Through the years, we've talked a lot about the common good and the need to work together to achieve societal goals. Now, more than ever, let's keep the Palmetto State's common good in mind to beat this viral terrorist instead of putting individual desires at the forefront. If we do the former, we'll eventually flatten the upward curve of infections. If we don't, it's going to go from bad to worse.

Andy Brack is publisher of Charleston City Paper. Have a comment? Send to: feedback@charlestoncitypaper.com.