Responding and adapting our lives to living in a pandemic is something most of us in Columbia had never experienced. Yet across the Midlands, when asked to change the way we live to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus, our community responded quickly and dramatically to meet the public health challenge. The social distancing measures and our willingness to stay at home slowed the spread of the virus, and we made huge strides in reversing its reach.
After being sequestered and cooped up for six weeks, it is easy to understand why people across the state leapt at opportunities to return to normal and streamed back into our restaurants, stores and other open spaces when Governor McMaster lifted the stay at home orders in early May. But as many health experts and advisers feared, from an epidemiological perspective it was not yet the right time to open.
One month later, there is no denying the results from so many people gathering again in close contact before we had sufficiently reduced case levels and slowed the virus’ spread. The numbers just don’t lie.
The resurgence of cases and renewed spread is alarming. This past week we saw the highest number of identified positive cases in SC since the beginning of the pandemic.
On June 8, SC saw an increase of 542 cases in just one 24 hour period, by far the highest spike since the outbreak started.
Currently, there are more than 14,800 cases of COVID-19 in South Carolina, and 560 people have died from the disease in our state. Bringing things closer to home for those of us in the Midlands, Richland County has the second highest case levels in SC, with 1,794 cases and 70 of our neighbors across the county who have lost their lives to the disease.
To know the impact of the virus in our communities and where it is spreading the most aggressively, the City of Columbia seeks to test all of our citizens and there are now FREE testing clinics across the city, with more opening every week. You can visit our Resilient Columbia page HERE to find current operating sites, or visit NEWLY OPENING TESTING CLINICS for sites just opened or scheduled to open soon.
Our businesses and many public spaces have reopened, but this does not mean we can return to going out, going to work or socializing the way we did before the COVID-19 outbreak. Now more than ever, we must adapt to a pandemic resilient model that will restore our economy yet keep our communities healthy.
We know what has proven effective in slowing the spread of the virus, and the public can now see reminders every time they leave their homes.
-It is essential to wear masks or other forms of facial PPEs to keep ourselves from spreading the disease to others, or catching the disease from others.
-Wash your hands frequently.
-Avoid close contact with others, especially when inside, and maintain a distance of six feet from others at all times.
-We have begun to place social distancing reminders throughout Columbia to reinforce this important public safety guideline.
-Businesses have adopted new social distancing operating standards, and we now provide these signs so businesses can assure customers they are doing their part to reopen and operate responsibly.
The Resilient Columbia website has resources to help our businesses reopen or operate responsibly and a map detailing which businesses have taken Reopen Responsibly Pledge.
We dramatically slowed the spread of the coronavirus once. We can do it again, even while slowly and responsibly working toward resuming business and driving a new pandemic resilient economy.
We have to remain focused and committed to beating this virus and completely removing its threat from our Columbia and the Midlands.
God bless each of you.
Mayor Steve Benjamin