Recent editorials from South Carolina newspapers:
The Index-Journal on continuing coronavirus caution into 2021:
Maybe you took a long break during Christmas that included not listening much to the news or reading the newspaper. Maybe you did not pay close attention, in that case, to how the number of COVID-19 positive cases and deaths in the state have been making the summer numbers look mild — or almost mild.
Now that people have ventured back home from their holiday vacations and trips to be with family and friends, don’t look for a significant drop in those numbers, numbers that are already rather scary when taking into account DHEC’s report that came out right after Christmas and reflected two days’ totals, Dec. 24 and Christmas Day. Suffice it to say, the numbers are not the kind of gift any of us wants to have had under our tree.
So yes, the likelihood of even higher numbers in the coming days is great. That’s potentially hundreds of sick people and undoubtedly more deaths. That’s more hospital rooms and emergency rooms that will be dealing with COVID patients, and possibly at the expense of people with other medical needs. All as a prelude to mass vaccinations being rolled out. All as a prelude to what might take place around New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.
If you’re smart, you’ll treat this upcoming holiday in much the same way Time Square will be treating it. There will be no throngs of people shoulder to shoulder reveling in the streets ahead of and during the ball drop that welcomes 2021.
If ever there was a time to swear off the big parties that ultimately can lead to big morning-after headaches, this is it. Stay home with family you’ve been with or just that same small number of friends whose company you have been able to enjoy because you and they have been diligent in adhering to the CDC guidelines. But really, to be safest, stay home with family only to welcome 2021.
Celebrate the coming new year quietly, with reflection on how 2020 has been and with hope for how 2021 might yet be once vaccinations are fully deployed and we show signs of getting a real handle on this pandemic.
Don’t take unnecessary chances with 2021. The virus doesn’t magically go away on Jan. 1 any more than it was going to disappear right before Easter of this year.
The Times and Democrat on avoiding coronavirus vaccine-related scams:
A recent Associated Press-NORC Center poll found that about half of Americans want to get the coronavirus vaccine. A quarter of people aren’t sure whether they will take it -- and the other quarter say they won’t.
The hope is that most of the undecideds will opt in as experts say roughly 70% of the population needs vaccination in order to achieve herd immunity and effectively end the pandemic.
For now, the focus is on getting the most vulnerable people vaccinated with the bulk of the population left waiting while the coronavirus kills a record number of people daily. There is an increasing urgency among many to get the vaccination.
And that could lead to people becoming the victim of scammers, who are always around to take advantage of people no matter the situation.
South Carolina U.S. Attorney Peter M. McCoy Jr. has issued a warning.
“Having already seen supply scams, provider scams, economic impact scams, phishing scams and even charity scams related to COVID-19 across the country, every South Carolinian should be extra cautious for the possibility of phony websites and other outreach claiming early access to the vaccine,” McCoy said. “Everyone, particularly seniors and their caretakers, should be on high alert for fraudsters seeking to take advantage of their most vulnerable neighbors.”
At the beginning of December, the Federal Trade Commission had already received more than 250,000 COVID-related consumer complaints, with two-thirds involving fraud or identity theft.
“Be it through robocalls, texts, emails or other means of communication, the potential for continued coronavirus scams could be as rampant as the disease itself,” McCoy said. “Not only do these criminals victimize the recipient of the scam, they can also cast doubt for many others to trust the legitimate work being done by honest, reliable providers.”
McCoy wants South Carolinians to know that the best defense against the coronavirus scams is vigilance, knowing criminals have multiple methods to try to take advantage of others. He urges all to:
— Know that you cannot pay to put your name on a list to get the vaccine or to get early access to the vaccine.
— Know that no legitimate vaccine distribution site or heath care payer, like a private insurance company, will call asking for your Social Security, banking, or credit card numbers to sign you up to get the vaccine.
— Beware of providers offering other products, treatments or medicines to prevent the virus. Check with your health care provider before paying for or receiving any COVID-19-related treatment.
— Never send money or give out your Social Security number, date of birth, bank account numbers, and credit card numbers and expiration dates to unfamiliar companies or unknown persons.
— Know that the IRS will never ask for your social or bank information over the phone.
— If you have become a victim, do not be too ashamed or afraid to report it. Contact the National Center for Disaster Fraud Hotline at 1-866-720-5721 or online at www.justice.gov/coronavirus.
McCoy stressed his office’s commitment to stopping the criminals before more can become victims of their crimes.
As much as prosecution to the fullest is deserved, the better punishment is for all to be sure these fraudulent efforts do not succeed.
The Post and Courier on legalizing medical marijuana in South Carolina:
One of the less noted storylines from last month’s election was the continued movement of states toward allowing marijuana for medical use. It’s time for South Carolina to join them.
Thirty-six states — representing about three-fourths of the nation’s population — have legalized cannabis for medical use. More than two-thirds of Mississippi’s voters favored medical cannabis in a referendum in November, and it will join Southern states including Virginia, Florida, Arkansas and Louisiana that compassionately permit such use.
We’ve long supported legalizing marijuana for medical use, which has been prescribed for those suffering from chronic pain, cancer-related wasting and nausea, glaucoma and dozens of other medical conditions. A clear majority of South Carolinians agree: The most recent poll of state residents showed 72% support legalizing medical marijuana.
Fortunately, South Carolina lawmakers again are pushing to make this happen and have pre-filed bills to legalize medical cannabis in the state. The South Carolina Compassionate Care Act would create a regulated medical cannabis program to allow patients with serious medical conditions and illnesses to safely access and use medicinal cannabis under a physician’s care. Two similar bills are backed by Sen. Tom Davis, R-Beaufort, and Rep. Bill Herbkersman, R-Bluffton.
Mr. Herbkersman poignantly recounted his late brother’s experience finding relief from medical cannabis as a reason to back the bill: “It is unacceptable that South Carolinians with serious illnesses have to break the law to alleviate their suffering. My brother deserved better. Our friends, family and neighbors deserve the same options to medicine that are afforded to Americans in thirty-six other states. Waiting any longer will only add to the suffering that is experienced by those who are plagued with debilitating illnesses.”
Mr. Davis has been trying for five years to advance a similar bill and is optimistic that progress is possible next year.
Several leaders in the South Carolina medical community have warned that there’s not enough research on the effectiveness of marijuana as a medicine, but many studies have shown marijuana can effectively treat several conditions, including some difficult to treat with traditional drugs. The Food and Drug Administration should pursue better research that would shed more authoritative light on the issue.
It’s important to note a medical marijuana law wouldn’t require doctors to prescribe it; it would simply give them the option. Dr. Bill Griffith of Anderson is one such doctor who sees the benefits of medical cannabis outweighing the risks, especially given how much more we know about our nation’s recent dangerous overuse of opioids in fighting pain. “The illegality of medical cannabis in our state is forcing many patients to rely on the dangerous underground market to access their medicine,” Dr. Griffith said. A state law would ensure patients could receive drugs that are far safer.
It’s also disingenuous to suggest that legalizing medicinal cannabis would somehow cause a rise in crime; other states have seen no notable correlation. But for South Carolinians suffering from painful or debilitating conditions, medical cannabis could help. It’s wrong to continue denying them that compassionate option.