Recent editorials from South Carolina newspapers:
The Index-Journal on Gov. Henry McMaster’s stay-at-home order:
Well, mostly at any rate.
Gov. Henry McMaster on Monday took another step that is just shy of a wholesale stay-at-home order. The governor has long contended the state has essentially been operating accordingly by virtue of having urged people to remain home, only shop for necessities and practice safe social distancing. Then, this past week, he put together a list of nonessential businesses he ordered closed. Then on Friday, that list was expanded to include more businesses that had to close their doors as of 5 p.m. Monday.
Monday’s newest executive order, which goes into effect at 5 p.m. today, does put some more teeth into the stay-at-home decree, allowing for law enforcement to jail offenders who might also face fines of up to $1,000. But he did not add to his list of business closures and reiterated his desire to maintain health safety for the state’s residents while upholding the U.S. Constitution.
What does all of this mean? Well, that might be hard to determine just out the gate, but many stores are allowed to remain open so long as they limit the number of customers inside or, better yet, provide curbside pick-up. So, don’t look for the big box parking lot to be empty on Wednesday morning; just look for someone counting the number of people going in before the rest of the shoppers are held at bay. It’ll probably be sort of like how people are managed entering amusement park rides, maybe.
Basically, the governor wants South Carolinians to maintain the freedoms they have come to love while allowing them to move about mostly as they see fit, going to visit family members, getting basic needs from retail stores and drug stores, heading to and from work, taking care of their pets’ needs, exercising and the like. Only, please do so while practicing all the various guidelines we all by now know by heart. That’s handwashing, staying six feet apart, voluntarily wearing masks and so forth.
We have to admit, it will likely be difficult for law enforcement to enforce. They might visit stores to see how the shoppers are being limited, how checkout lines are set up to enable safe distancing while also protecting employees. But the number of law officers is fairly limited and they have other essential duties to tend to, so we doubt there will be an abundance of checkpoints and requests to see your papers before you can move about relatively freely.
Again, it’s another right step toward helping keep the curve tamped down. We can only hope the fools that have either been ignoring the news or are simply belligerent will heed the executive order, which now is more than a mere polite suggestion, and stay the heck at home if and as much as possible.
So, please don’t crowd the liquor stores. Oh, and if you don’t already own a handgun, try to wait until this is all said and done before you head out to make a purchase. Leave the crowding to those who are adding to their stockpile in anticipation of Armageddon.
The Times and Democrat on stockpiling supplies such as toilet paper:
Even the political cartoonists are getting in on the act. Amid all the coverage of coronavirus and the topics surrounding it, they too have noticed the hoarding of supplies, notably toilet tissue.
It’s no secret to anyone going to any store: Shelves are empty. No toilet tissue to be found. For a time, buyers ignored facial tissues. No more. All related products are gone.
Yes, people may be using more toilet tissue than normal as they work from home and stay at home, but no household needs a mountain of toilet tissue.
According to reporting by Suzanne Baker of the Chicago Tribune, the buying is more than overreaction. She says that for some people, the reaction is a means of exerting control in a situation that is basically out of their control. She cites mental health experts as her sources.
One is Jon Mueller, professor of psychology at North Central College in Naperville, Ill., who said three powerful forces are at work when something like coronavirus happens - fear, uncertainty and scarcity. All are normal human responses.
“All this makes sense in the context,” he said.
It’s not unlike when the Home Shopping Network gives an alert that only 12 items are left in the sale, Mueller said. The television show is tapping into those same forces in an effort to get the viewer to react. “We want to do things to gain control.”
In this case, it is stockpiling supplies.
For the record, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security recommends having a two-week supply of water and food. In addition, the government suggests Americans check their regular prescription drugs to ensure a continuous supply and to have nonprescription drugs and other health supplies on hand, such as pain relievers, stomach remedies, cough and cold medicines, fluids with electrolytes, and vitamins.
As for toilet paper, Newsweek reports that you can get an idea of how much is needed using the toilet paper calculator at www.toiletpapercalculator.com.
Plug in the number of people in your household and the amount of time spent in isolation, and it will work out how much you need. The aim is to stop people from stockpiling more than is necessary, according to Newsweek.
As per the calculator, a family of four in isolation for two weeks will need around 16 rolls. It recommends 24 rolls for a couple spending six weeks in isolation. Eight people isolating for a month will need 67.
Clearly, some people have far more toilet tissue than they will need. That may not mean a crisis for those with little or none, but it sure does make a bad situation even worse. Stop the hoarding.
By way of substitutes for standard toilet tissue, there are potential problems, so much so that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is advising all Americans to only flush toilet paper, not disinfecting wipes or other non-flushable items that should be disposed of in the trash.
Flushing only toilet paper helps ensure that the toilets, plumbing, sewer systems and septic systems will continue working properly to safely manage our nation’s wastewater. While EPA encourages disinfecting your environment to prevent the spread of COVID-19, never flush disinfecting wipes or other non-flushable items. These easy steps will keep surfaces disinfected and wastewater management systems working for all Americans.
Preventable toilet and sewer backups can pose a threat to human health and present an extra challenge to our water utilities and their workforce. Flushing anything other than toilet paper, including disinfecting wipes, can damage internal plumbing, local sewer systems and septic systems. Fixing these backups is costly and takes time and resources away from ensuring that wastewater management systems are otherwise working properly.
EPA acknowledged the important role of some people who may not be classified as “heroes” of the coronavirus crisis, thanking wastewater utilities and their workforce “for their courageous efforts at a time when resources may be stretched thin. Having fully operational wastewater services is critical to containing COVID-19 and protecting Americans from other public health risks. Our nation’s wastewater employees are everyday heroes who are on the frontline of protecting human health and the environment every single day.”
The Post and Courier on internet access:
Before last month, our national debate over broadband internet access in rural areas might have begun with the question: Do farmers really have to have Netflix? As we adjust to a new reality remade by the COVID-19 outbreak, a more appropriate question might be: Isn’t broadband now as essential as electricity?
As we stay at home as much as possible, good internet access has become exponentially more vital to interacting with doctors, doing our jobs, continuing our children’s education, seeking government services and more.
As a headline in The New York Times recently put it, “Coronavirus has ended the screen-time debate and the screens have won.”
The problem is, our access to content on these screens is far from equal. One in 4 rural South Carolina homes and businesses lacks acceptable internet speeds - and what the Federal Communications Commission considers minimally acceptable still is five times slower than the cheapest service offered in many cities.
Of course, this problem of broadband internet access in rural areas predated the pandemic by years, and some progress has been made. But the closure of all public libraries - where many rural and low-income residents have turned for internet access they lack at home - has likely more than offset any recent gains. Some school districts have been creative in using Wi-Fi equipped buses to fill the gap temporarily, but South Carolina residents need a viable long-term solution.
Earlier this year, Home Telecom won an $8.1 million Rural Development Broadband ReConnect grant to lay hundreds of miles of fiber-optic cable in rural areas around Charleston, including Honey Hill, Huger, Awendaw, McClellanville, Cross and Sandridge.
And Gov. Henry McMaster has taken a positive step in urging legislators to spend $575,000 on converting unused public TV towers for internet use. As The Post and Courier’s Adam Benson reports, Mr. McMaster called broadband connectivity “no longer a luxury - it is a necessity, critical to ensuring a level playing field for those in rural areas.”
Mr. McMaster’s welcome move builds upon SCETV’s existing broadband partnership with Sprint that focuses especially on underserved communities and their early child care and education sites. More than 260 hot spot locations already have been created and more are targeted this year.
“We recognize that we have a robust infrastructure in place that serves our unique needs throughout the state and could also benefit others in helping to make increased broadband coverage a reality,” SCETV spokesman Jeremy Cauthen tells us. “The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic showcases the importance of this initiative on multiple fronts.”
As the COVID-19 crisis eases and allows state lawmakers to return to other state business, they should consider doing even more, including passing a bill to let the Rural Infrastructure Authority also provide grants to extend high-speed internet to poorer, rural areas. The bill already has passed the House.
The Senate also is considering a proposed “Broadband Accessibility Act” to urge South Carolina’s electric cooperatives to add high-speed internet service by partnering with private businesses. Sen. John Scott told Mr. Benson the advantage of this approach is the co-ops already have transmission lines and relationships with rural customers.
We’ll let lawmakers sort out the best approach to help, but it’s clear the state and federal governments must do more to meet an important need the private sector has not found it profitable to serve. After all, these same governments already have moved an increasing amount of the public’s business online - a reality that stands out dramatically in our current time of social distancing.
No one’s education should be curbed - and no one should have a harder time talking with a doctor - because there’s not a school bus parked close to their home.
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