Recent editorials from South Carolina newspapers:

___

April 20

The Post and Courier on Gov. Henry McMaster reopening beaches:

Even before Gov. Henry McMaster had announced his plan to reopen South Carolina’s beaches, several beach communities announced that they wouldn’t be lifting entry restrictions just yet.

It was the right decision.

South Carolina seems to have turned a corner and to be headed in the right direction in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic. The University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, which calculates the projections published by the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control, altered its predictions Friday to say we have passed the peak of coronavirus-related hospital usage and deaths. Now, according to the updated projection, the state can expect a total of 217 COVID-19 patients to die by August — down from 680 deaths predicted earlier in the week and less than twice the number who already have died.

That is a tremendous success, which shows the payoff for the pain we’ve inflicted on our economy and the damage we’ve done to our children’s education, not to mention our own emotional well-being.

But we need to see that as encouragement to hang in there a little longer — not as an excuse to give up the fight prematurely. As much as all of us want to get back to something akin to normalcy, and as much as we know we can’t keep so much of the economy in deep-freeze forever, it is simply too early to make more than modest adjustments to our restrictions. And despite Mr. McMaster’s assurances to the contrary, this adjustment is more than modest.

Even the much higher death projections were based on some level of social distancing. And the new projections assume that the current restrictions will remain in place through at least June 1. That’s six weeks from now.

South Carolina hasn’t met even the minimum 14-day improvement in the number of people with COVID-19 symptoms and positive test results that the Trump administration has advised for starting to relax restrictions. The number of positive tests might have peaked on April 15 — and it might not have. The number of deaths might have peaked on April 9. Or maybe on April 16, depending on whose numbers you use. But these numbers are small enough (and thank goodness for that) that even a slight uptick in the next few days could reverse the trajectory before we reach two weeks.

And the medical experts at DHEC and the Medical University of South Carolina say we don’t have the capacity to test all at-risk medical workers, much less conduct rapid testing, isolation and contact tracing of all new infections, as the federal plan also recommends before states lift restrictions.

It’s one thing to reopen boat ramps … and allow hospitals to resume nonemergency surgery … and even to allow local governments to reopen the beaches if they want to. It is quite another to reopen pretty much the entire retail sector.

Mr. McMaster stressed Monday that his home-or-work order won’t be lifted and that reopened businesses will have to meet the same five customers per 1,000-square-feet rules that grocery stores do. But keeping that order in place doesn’t mean a lot when we’re rapidly expanding the number of people who can go to work and adding more “or’s” — inviting people to spend the day at the beach, or go browsing for books, luggage, crafting supplies, furniture, flowers or flutes, or go flea-marketing.

Mr. McMaster’s stay-home order already was limited, since he never shut down anywhere near all of the retail sector — and since his Commerce Department has been extremely liberal in its interpretation of which businesses remain essential. Rolling it back even more — even with social-distancing requirements built in — further increases the number of people who can be exposed to COVID-19. And that risks increasing the number of illnesses and deaths, straining our medical system and further hurting the economy, and plunging us back into even longer stay-at-home orders. The upside is simply not worth the downside at this point.

Online: https://www.postandcourier.com/

___

April 18

The Aiken Standard on the 50th anniversary Earth Day:

This week marks the 50th anniversary of Earth Day.

There’s no better time than in the middle of a pandemic, when we are avoiding human interaction, to see the beauty, fragility and resilience of the environment around us.

South Carolina, full of natural wonders from its beaches to its mountains, benefits greatly from fresh air and clean water. Closer to home, Aiken County and its surrounding environs benefit from land conservation, tree preservation and eco-friendly initiatives.

The recent coronavirus pandemic has forced many Earth Day events to be canceled or postponed, but it won’t keep people from celebrating the movement in different ways.

Earth Day is celebrated each year on April 22. Locally, the Ruth Patrick Science Education Center at USC Aiken is celebrating Earth Week with a number of virtual events. Activities and contests will be streamed on the center’s Facebook page.

One good thing has come out of the pandemic: Some parts of the planet are seeing clear skies for the first time in decades since stay at home orders have caused a sharp decrease in transportation and lower nitrogen oxide emissions.

We’re lucky to live in an area where we appreciate our blue skies and our trees. Thanks to the City of Aiken, District 1 City Council Member Gail Diggs and Parks Director Jessica Campbell and staff, the Aiken Standard staff is planting 250 trees at Generations Park this week.

Here at the Aiken Standard, recycling is part of our daily life. Over the last 12 months, the Aiken Standard has recycled 780,000 pounds (390 tons) of paper and cardboard, 31 tons of aluminum, 10 tons of metal, two old printing units and various other scrap metal, as well as daily collections of plastic bottles and paper.

People all over the planet are doing things each day to make a positive impact. At earthday.org, some of the suggestions we all can do include:

- Plant or donate a tree.

- Join a local park, beach or river cleanup effort.

- Recycle paper, plastic and glass.

- Carpool, ride a bike or use public transportation when possible.

- Use environmentally friendly, non-toxic cleaning products.

You get the picture. We overheard a story this week about a grandfather who received a stimulus check from the government, and he was depositing the money into a fund for his grandchildren.

His reasoning? The money was borrowing from them anyway. Makes sense.

The damage we’re doing to the Earth each day is borrowing from our grandchildren’s future and limiting their ability to enjoy some of the things we take for granted, like fresh air and cool streams.

Make every day Earth Day. Future generations are counting on us.

Online: https://www.aikenstandard.com/

___

April 17

The Index Journal on continuing to social distance:

Here we are, another week of working from and sheltering at home, home-schooling, at-home recreation and such. That is, at least, for a good many of us.

Some people are still able and even willing to go to work, so long as they are taking all the necessary precautions. Still, whether the work routine hasn’t really changed it remains a different world during the COVID-19 pandemic.

At the risk of being a bit repetitive, however, we do want to extend a thumbs up to all who have been behaving, so to speak. If you have kept your travels and shopping to a minimum, good for you. If you have taking precautions on the job, such as wearing a mask as and when appropriate, regularly washing your hands, being even more cautious about getting into the personal space of others around you, again good for you.

Doing your part, being responsible and helping keep those numbers down when it comes to how many people are testing positive, getting sick or, worse, potentially dying, is certainly expected but also worthy of an accolade in the form of the thumbs up.

But the larger thumbs up goes out to those we often label as the front line in this pandemic war.

While so many of us can change our lifestyles to fit the new normal and its accompanying needs, not everyone can. They can wear protective clothing in many cases, but for a good number of folks, it’s business as usual. And that business puts them at higher risk for contracting the novel coronavirus.

This includes all in the medical arena and law enforcement. Hospital workers, EMTs, firefighters — the list is fairly extensive. Imagine what must go through their minds as they try to do their jobs the best they can. Each minute they are on the job they are putting themselves and, yes, potentially others at risk.

So yes, we agree that first responders and those whose jobs put them in contact with potentially higher-risk people deserve a few accolades. We’re not alone. Grocery stores and restaurants, for example, have been kind enough to treat some of these folks to free food and meals.

If you’re doing the right thing in what we sometimes refer to as these COVID Days, please continue doing so. And don’t take unnecessary risks when the day comes that the rules and regs are more relaxed. There is no magic date when the coronavirus will simply disappear.

And if you are among those serving on the front lines, we wish you well. Be safe, be vigilant in protecting yourselves and your families. When all is said and done, we hope you get a much-needed stress-free break.

Online: http://www.indexjournal.com/