SC Gov Henry McCaster Declares Spreading COVID-19 At Flea Markets An Essential Activity

Local News

South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster issued a statewide “work or home" order on April 7. In order to slow the spread of COVID-19, residents were supposed to stay at home unless they were going to work or some other essential activity (buying groceries, getting medication, etc). Now McMaster is about to get all loosey-goosey about what's “essential." The governor is expected to lift restrictions on some retail stores and allow in-person shopping at clothing, furniture and jewelry stores. He's even going to reopen department stores, florists, bookstores, music shops, and — get this — flea markets. A global pandemic is not an ideal time for people to browse around for secondhand goods.

This is all kinds of stupid, but for fairness's sake, let's venture inside the abandoned roller derby McMaster calls a brain and try to figure out what he's thinking. There are currently 4,377 reported coronavirus cases in my home state, and 120 people have died. South Carolina is ranked 27th right now for confirmed cases, but that doesn't matter much because it also has the 15th lowest number of tests — 6.2 per 1,000 people. Its positive test rate is roughly 10 percent.

State health officials don't expect COVID-19 cases to reach their peak until early May, but McMaster's chief of staff, Trey Walker, believes now is as good a time as any to ease restrictions because the infection rate has dropped slightly. Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, who's competent, recently echoed medical experts such as Dr. Anthony Fauci when he explained why that is actually the worst time to relax restrictions.

But who needs science and civic responsibility when you can go out and buy a stranger's ratty old Furby for your grandchild's birthday!

State health officials also report that 67 percent of coronavirus patients “recover." Note the use of quotations marks there. Patients have to reach the 14-day mark since showing symptoms, with no adverse outcomes. If you were hospitalized, you aren't considered “recovered" until 32 days after symptoms began. A high school friend in South Carolina who survived COVID-19 was out of commission for well over a month and probably won't return to work for another few weeks. This is what the “let's get back to work" people don't quite understand. Employees risk losing months of income anyway while gaining hefty medical bills, provided they don't lose their lives or suffer longterm (and expensive) health problems. Few if any of these non-essential retail businesses pay their employees enough to make that a viable risk. Most business owners cry poverty at the prospect of a living wage, so you know that if they had to offer hazard pay and paid sick leave during the pandemic, they wouldn't open at all.

Occupancy in the reopened stores is limited to five customers per 1,000 square feet of retail space or 20 percent occupancy, whichever is less. It's unclear how this is effectively and safely managed. McMaster is also considering how to reopen hair salons, barbershops, and gyms if they limit the number of customers and use face masks and other personal protective gear. How the fuck are you supposed to give a cut and color from six feet away? Are they going to hire Plastic Man? I went to the gym frequently before the world ended, but they're still gross sweat factories. I guess if you just have one person per row of ellipticals you might manage to only infect thousands each day.

McMaster is also reopening the public beaches like a common Ron DeSantis. Four Charleston beach towns say they'll continue to restrict access and issued a collective “what's wrong with you?"

There is no evidence from medical professionals that indicates that the threat of COVID19 in our region has diminished. South Carolina is still in the acceleration phase and even with the reduction in growth of new cases, new cases could begin to grow quickly if social distancing restrictions are lifted.

Greenville County, where my family lives, has almost 500 reported cases, but the estimated number is more than 3,000. People need to stay home and safe. Play it smart and we can shop in the West End again without a hazmat suit.

Live Downtown Greenville SC Guide - Shopping in the West End Boutiques

[The State]

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Stephen Robinson

Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He writes reviews for the A.V. Club and make believe for Cafe Nordo, an immersive theatre space in Seattle. He's also on the board of the Portland Playhouse theatre. His son describes him as a “play typer guy."


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