COVID-19 Update April 29, 2020
My friends, I know it has been a tough couple of months. First and foremost, I am proud of our community for remaining vigilant through this unusual time, but while many areas in our state and nation are preparing to transition back to normal, I want to encourage all of us to continue remaining vigilant—stay home as much as possible, and use caution when you need to go out. The experts at the CDC and our healthcare professionals have provided excellent guidelines for us to follow, and I urge you to continue to consider these guidelines in the days ahead. From what I have read and learned from healthcare workers (at home and elsewhere), the future will be better for cities and counties that continue to be smart.
It is concerning that Sumter—the fifteenth largest county in SC—has the fifth-highest infection rate in the state. Among the “Top Five” are Clarendon, Kershaw, Lee and Richland counties. I believe we in Sumter must be very aware that we are in a “cluster” of four abutting counties with high rates of infection. In normal times, residents of all five counties visit each other in large numbers, especially with Sumter citizens working in neighboring counties and citizens of the other counties working in Sumter.
I reference the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation maintained by the University of Washington daily for information pertaining to COVID-19 as it affects South Carolina—also referenced on the SCDHEC website. The IHME website states the following as of Monday, April 27:
“After June 8, 2020, relaxing social distancing may be possible with containment strategies that include testing, contact tracing, isolation, and limiting gathering size”.
The following day, the date was changed to June 13 because the governor relaxed somewhat his “stay at home or work” order. (It increased the projected death rate for South Carolina and the United States.) A “projection” suggests that things could be better or worse. In any event, I plead with all citizens of Sumter and our surrounding counties to please continue all of the things that have been asked of you since Governor McMaster issued his “stay at home or work” executive order on April 7.
Remember that although the governor has relaxed his order by allowing some retail establishments to open and may open some more this week, he has renewed his emergency declaration and still calls upon us to continue all of the requirements that promote good public health and social/physical separation. He calls on businesses to take steps to protect employees and the public. Look for businesses that have those protections in place. Also remember that our City is still under curfew from 11 PM until 5 AM each day. Access to our parks and public facilities remain closed at this time – all this is for the safety of our residents and our employees. City services and employees remain available to you on our regular schedule; however, if you need anything from us, we ask that you contact us via phone or through our website at www.sumtersc.gov.
So, we are being asked to continue all the restrictions on our daily life for the time being. We are told these hardships will need to continue for some time—even after June 8. I have read that studies of the “Spanish Flu” pandemic of 1918 show that places that observed the separation rules the longest made the greatest short- and long-term recoveries. Those who know the most about coronaviruses say that the infection and death rates in our country would be even higher if most people were not taking separation seriously.
When we feel like things are completely overwhelming, let’s remember that we have seen worse times in the history of our country and city, but I will say that I personally remember nothing any worse than the current pandemic. Looking back at more recent events, I think of Hurricane Hugo in 1989 and how bad things looked the morning after, and I remember the Great Flood of 2015 and how for months I got scared every time it rained. However, we are going to get through this and be stronger on the other side.
Sumter is a community of strong faith, I know many here are praying for comfort and peace for those who have lost a loved one and comfort and recovery for those with the virus. My family and I are among those praying. I believe that we came back stronger after those catastrophes. And we WILL do it again!
Mayor Joe McElveen