City of Sumter COVID-19 Update March 21, 2020, 10AM

I want to thank the citizens of Sumter who are taking the COVID-19 threat seriously. My heart and prayers go out to all who have contracted this virus and especially to those who have lost loved ones. People and pastors all over Sumter are vigorously praying for guidance, protection, and deliverance. As I said in a proclamation I issued on Thursday, we will have a day of thanksgiving when this challenge ends.

On behalf of all citizens, I want to thank all medical personnel who are on the front lines of this pandemic. The same is true of our first responders, the Sumter Police Department, the Sumter Fire Department, the Sumter County Sheriff’s Department, and, of course, emergency medical technicians.  They put their own health and lives on the line daily as this situation unfolds. Service to others is not new to these protectors, but the danger they face now is insidious and we know too little about it.  Let’s pray daily for them.

I also ask for continued prayers for our neighbors who are stationed at Shaw Air Force Base. While many members of these families are spread around the world defending our country, they now face another threat, which their loved ones must face at home without them.  All of this as the 20th Fighter Wing prepares to deploy contingents.

I just took part in an online conference that had experts in crisis management and communicable disease on the speakers’ panel. What we learned will be helpful for future threats, but there is a lot that the experts do not know now. One speaker said the issue right now is more of a logistical problem than a health issue: how do we get what is needed, where it is needed and when it is needed? Experts know that there are unreported cases out there. Some believe there are 100 unreported cases for every confirmed case. The things we are being asked to do now are going to hopefully decrease the number of new cases so that our healthcare system can manage the COVID-19 cases and the normal things that must go on in a hospital from day to day.

Experts know that, if we do not practice “social distancing” and do the other things that are being suggested, there will be a barrage of new cases that will overwhelm the system. If we practice those recommendations, we can reduce new cases or reduce the frequency of new cases. We do not want a situation where a person with a serious heart problem, for example, cannot get treatment because virus victims are filling all beds and using all ventilators.   

I am proud of the way that Sumterites are responding to the requests for separation. I see no need for us to have a curfew at this time. Many are working from home and staying at home. Schools have closed and our District is working to make sure that children get what they need. Sumter United Ministries is preparing to help the neediest among us. Santee Senior Services has made arrangements to get food to our senior citizens. As I said, our first responders are protecting themselves, while serving our citizens. City and County government offices are working together to adjust operations to minimize contact. Businesses and restaurants are really going to suffer, but they are finding safe, new ways to sell their products while protecting employees and the public.

I have just a few requests:

  • Parents, I know you were not planning to have kids home all day. I know it can be tough to find childcare. But “social separation” must be practiced by children too. Don’t have “play dates” or other gatherings. Children can get this too. Do your best to follow the “separation rules.”
  • Young adults, the same applies to you. Young people ARE contracting COVID-19, although admittedly at a lower level than older people and those with “underlying medical conditions.” However, every one of us has someone who is at high risk whom we love. So, follow the rules for those people. Do not congregate in groups.
  • For businesses that are staying open, please find ways to enforce separation when customers are in your grocery store or picking up takeout food. For instance, I was in a pharmacy last night which had yellow tape marking off ten foot intervals for customers waiting in line.
  • For all residents and visitors, if you have symptoms—fever, coughing, and shortness of breath, to mention the ones most often mentioned—call a doctor or Prisma Tuomey to arrange a virtual appointment online:
  • If an elderly or otherwise high-risk person is a neighbor, safely check on them and help them get essentials if you can. If you cannot do it safely and suspect something is wrong, report that fact to law enforcement.
  • You can find very detailed instructions for what to do during this time on the Center for Disease Control (CDC) website:
  • Our caring agencies and charities will need financial help as they are stretched financially to take care of the vulnerable beyond what they could have anticipated. If you can, donate to help.

I know that Sumter will do what is right and what is smart to get to the other side of this crisis. I believe that the best people in the world live here, and you are going to prove me right again.

Thank you and may God continue to bless our community.

Mayor Joe McElveen