South Carolina is reaping decades of underinvestment in education. Just look at how our state's residents are handling coronavirus. Too many are ignoring the guidance of smart people. And that, in turn, is causing COVID-19 to spread like wildfire and become a danger to those who seem to understand the seriousness of this pandemic and who are trying to not get it.
So as a state, we're not going to win any award for being smart. But right now, we're the odds-on favorite to win one for being dumb. The New York Times reported last week that South Carolina ranked third in the world — just behind Arizona and Florida — as the place where coronavirus is growing most quickly. The Palmetto State had more cases of the virus on average than any other country. Yes, country. No one at the top of this list is going to be confused with a modern-day Einstein.
While the state's establishment seems more interested — perhaps cowed — in keeping businesses open than taking the threat as seriously as did New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, many of the state's progressives are rightly demanding the time of fiddle-faddling to be over.
"It is clear that urging citizens and employers to mask up and follow safety guidelines isn't working," said state Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter, an Orangeburg Democrat, a longtime inspiration within the S.C. Progressive Network. "The virus has become a political issue, and DHEC must stand up for science or we are all going to continue to suffer."
The state Department of Health and Environmental Control needs to stop sitting on its hands and take "every available means to prevent the transmission of infectious disease and to ensure that all cases of infectious disease are subject to proper control and treatment." That quote comes from the power the agency has under an existing order of a public health emergency. So far it, like Gov. Henry McMaster and his administration, is failing miserably as we now are topping 2,000 new cases a day.
We're doing so poorly with this Palmetto pandemic because conservatives had a liberal impatience with the virus. Obsessed with economics over health, the state opened back up too early. By Memorial Day, too many people acted as if everything was normal and had beach parties, house parties, happy hours and more. But the silent terrorist trudged forward, leaping from person to person as South Carolinians did just what it needed to spread. Now too many people have the disease and more are getting it. Too many will die.
As a state, we need to start over. Curbing the virus isn't rocket science. It's going to take determination and will to wear masks, stay at home, wash hands, enforce social distancing, limit shopping and cut out social activity. And for goodness sake, don't gather in large groups.
It's in our common interest to sit out the next few weeks and be smarter than we have been. Let's beat the viral terrorist instead of putting individual desires at the forefront. Otherwise, it's going to get even worse. And you can take that to the bank.