HOW DO WE KNOW WHAT WOULD HAVE WORKED? (part of the COVID-19 RESPONSE series) by Mary Edwards

April 10, 2020

How do you know you’re making the right decisions when you’re dealing with something no one in the last 100 years has ever had to deal with? At the federal level, the response to COVID-19 has been reactionary and there’s a lot of woulda, coulda, shoulda going on right now from the public. Reports have stated that employees of the pandemic branch of the CDC abruptly resigned in 2018. Their positions were never refilled. With no specific group to handle the situation, President Trump appointed a task force in January to develop a U.S. response to the potential crisis. In February, the president named Vice President Mike Pence to head the group, which has since been providing regular updates to the public on policy decisions and other actions regarding the outbreak.

How do we know what would have worked? A lock down on all out of the country travel right from the start? A mandatory 15 day lockdown? I can’t even imagine our country succeeding at a stay-at-home ordinance. Some of us have to go to work. We have friends who are working in hospitals who could possibly bring the virus home to their loved ones who in turn could take it to work at their City Hall. We’re still going to grocery stores for essential needs and getting gas to get to where we need to go. How do we really know where we got the virus in the first place?  We know the first confirmed reported case was identified in China in December 2019. The first confirmed case outside China was reported on January 20, 2020, in Japan, Thailand, and South Korea. The first case in the United States was identified in Washington state on January 21. But these are all confirmed reported cases. We don’t know if the U.S. had a case before January 21. Is it possible? Yes. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) started to push basic precautions such as hand-washing and cleaning frequently touched surfaces. On March 11, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the outbreak a pandemic. It seems like social distancing is widely seen as the best available means to “flatten the curve” of the pandemic, a phrase that epidemiologists use to describe slowing down the spread of infection. This approach can save lives by keeping local health care systems from being overwhelmed.

I believe South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster is doing the best he can at responding to COVID-19. He’s doing everything he can to keep groups from forming while avoiding a mandatory stay-at-home ordinance. I was a bartender for years and I feel for the servers out there who are out of a job right now, but the decision to close restaurants was the most obvious one since that’s the business where germs are spread the most. I’m not a parent and I don’t have much knowledge about working with kids but closing the schools made sense in protecting kids and their families. With schools, restaurants, and businesses closed, the only thing to really do when the weather is nice is to go to the pool or the beach. I believe the governor had no choice but to close our beaches and boat landings because that’s where law enforcement saw the most people over the weekend. It was busy everywhere and people definitely were not social distancing.

At the local level, it looks like municipalities are doing their best to continue operations. I’m grateful to have a job that allows me to work from anywhere and I’m grateful that I was able to pay my rent today. But there’s a lot of people who can’t say the same right now. We were on an economic high just over a month ago. I hope we’re able to get back to where we were and maybe even better.


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