Recent editorials from South Carolina newspapers:


Jan. 27

The Times and Democrat on the possible sale of Santee Cooper to a private utility

The Lake Marion Regional Water System continues to grow as a reliable source of water in rural areas looking to improve quality of life and expand development opportunities.

Most recently, the water system received a $10 million grant to further expand its services to rural areas in and around The T&D Region.

Since the Lake Marion water plant was completed more than a decade ago, the list of towns being served has grown and that expansion is to continue.

But there is concern.

A key player in the water project is the South Carolina Public Service Authority, better known as Santee Cooper, one of the nation’s largest publicly owned utilities. The owner of the manmade lakes Marion and Moultrie, Santee Cooper was created more than a half-century ago to bring growth and development to rural counties by supplying electricity. Water was and is a logical extension of the mission.

But will the mission continue if South Carolina leaders decide to sell Santee Cooper?

And what of Santee Cooper’s key role in economic development via loans, grants, other incentives and facilities?

The governor and lawmakers must look at the big picture, first realizing that sale of Santee Cooper to a private utility will result in higher electric rates for its customers. And a private utility has no interest in Santee Cooper’s other missions.

Despite leadership in the S.C. House and Gov. Henry McMaster being advocates for sale, there is general belief that votes to sell are not there in the S.C. Senate.

Our region’s lawmakers are among those who will be making the case that Santee Cooper is an important state asset. They agree that reforms in areas such as governance are needed at the utility but have indicated that sale could be a big mistake.

In fact, Senate Minority Leader and Orangeburg Sen. Brad Hutto said the utility may not even be a top issue in this legislative session. “There’s not a crisis at Santee Cooper right now that mandates that this takes some super priority for us,” he said.

Maybe not a “super” priority, but moving beyond talk of sale and into real discussion of changes at Santee Cooper would be a good thing in 2021-22.



Jan. 26

The Index-Journal on South Carolina's vaccine distribution plan:

We’re just days away from the Super Bowl, which will pit the Kansas City Chiefs (hey, when are they gonna change their name, right?) against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (hey, how come pirates aren’t complaining about the name?).

OK, with that out of the way, we’ll start to get to the point. Sometimes, you might have noticed, we choose to back into the parking spot, so to speak. This is one of those times.

This has little — nothing, really — to do with football other than to bring up the much-used cliché about Monday morning quarterbacking. In short, it’s easy after the game to say how the team should have played.

When it comes to the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent rollout of vaccinations, there’s been plenty of Monday morning QB’ing going on.

Frankly, we get it too. It’s frustrating. We’ve known for more than a year that COVID-19 had gripped the world. We knew vaccines were in the works. We even knew when they were approved by the FDA and cleared for distribution.

But there was no real national distribution plan rolled out with the vaccine. Health care providers were essentially left to their own devices. For comparison, think if a nuclear bomb had been created, built and given to the military. Only, no instructions on how to properly handle it, much less how to use it.

OK, maybe not the best comparison, but the fact remains that hospitals, including our own Self Regional, had to scramble to put together the best plan they could for getting vaccines in the arms of thousands. A far cry more difficult than lining up cars for drive-thru testing.

This week, letters began to pour into the paper regarding Self’s vaccination distribution plan. And how refreshing it was to see the letters were complimentary and not filled with attacks and claims of incompetence. Sure, the initial rollout was not as smooth as Self would have liked, but they were wading into new and unfamiliar territory as they set out to do right by a seven-county region with no clear guidance from anyone.

Again, we know how unbelievably frustrating it had to be for many people whose fingers nearly wore out from hitting redial on the appointment line, only to be greeted with a busy signal. Self responded. It’s continuing to respond and seek ways to make the vaccination process go even more smoothly.

Please remember that while the people who have pieced together a distribution plan with no master instruction sheets with handy illustrations are in the health care business, they’re not necessarily seasoned in pandemic warfare. Unlike Tom Brady and Patrick Mahomes, who have had plenty of practice leading up to the Feb. 7 Super Bowl, Self and others have had to wing it the best they can. ...

If you’re a second- or third-string QB who thinks you can or could have done better, by all means speak up. On second thought, just stay on the bench and let the experts continue to work on their game plans in an effort to win the game.



Jan. 25

The Post and Courier on returning South Carolina students safely back to classrooms:

One of the most contentious issues in the hyper-contentious debate over COVID-19 involves whether public schools should offer in-person classes for all kids whose parents want them back in the classroom.

Because of the educational, social, emotional and even physical harm remote learning can do to students — as well as how it affects parents who can’t work when they have to become part-time teachers — it’s also one of the most important.

So as COVID infection rates remain frighteningly high and school districts across the state refuse to reopen after the Christmas break, we think it’s important to lend a megaphone to a report that was published last week by the MUSC in-house newspaper.

According to the Jan. 19 article in Catalyst News, researchers from the Medical University of South Carolina found that only about 500 of the 38,000 students and staff participating in in-person learning in the Charleston County School District tested positive for COVID-19 between the start of in-person school on Sept. 8 and the start of winter break on Dec. 18. That’s barely more than 1%, and less than a sixth of what we’ve experienced in the general population.

This won’t come as a surprise to people who pay attention to the Charleston County School District, because it’s based on ongoing research MUSC is conducting for the district — some of which has been reported in The Post and Courier and referenced in our editorials. The research has contributed to the school board’s decisions to continue offering in-person classes and, just before Christmas, to temporarily suspend athletic contests and practices.

But the results apparently would come as a surprise to the 16 districts that, according to the S.C. Department of Education, were still offering remote-only classes as of Monday. And perhaps to the majority of school districts, which still were operating under a hybrid schedule, which often means students are in the classroom just two days a week.

The evidence from Charleston County schools suggests that most of those 500 COVID cases were contracted in the community, according to Allison Eckard, an infectious disease pediatrician at MUSC Children’s Health who is working with the school district on pandemic prevention measures.

Here’s what she told Catalyst News: “There have only been a handful of cases that may have been transmitted within the schools and within the classroom. There have been cases, there’s no doubt, but the majority of them have been acquired outside of the classroom. The ones that did happen inside the classroom most often involved a teacher giving it to a teacher or a teacher giving it to a student. And I have no examples of students giving it to teachers — the thing that everybody was so worried about.”

Read that again: no examples of students infecting their teachers.

That might help explain why half the 744 teachers who participated in the mid-winter survey of the Charleston Teachers Association disagreed with the idea that it’s “best for all instruction to be online during the pandemic.”

“In most cases,” Dr. Eckard continued, “the infection could be traced to a family member or a friend where they had spent time together outside of school. In some cases, sports activities, carpooling, and social gatherings were identified as the sources of infection.”

That helps explain why she believes, like a growing number of medical experts, that “the risk to the students is so much higher if they’re not in school.”

Oh, and one other important point from Dr. Eckard: She started off opposed to sending students back into the classrooms, but “now I am a believer. Kids need to be in school, and it’s safe.”

It’s hard to think of anything more important for our state to be working toward right now than making sure they all have the opportunity to get back to school.