Humanitarian Crisis in South Carolina

Deaths from COVID-19 in nursing homes surpassed the 40,000 mark before July 15.  Elder advocates and industry experts put the number much higher. There is universal agreement that nursing homes are the number one setting for coronavirus fatalities. Official estimates place actual and suspected infections at U.S. nursing homes over a quarter million. It may get worse.

In July, South Carolina has averaged 22 deaths per day. This is an increase from only eight deaths per day in May and June. Something needs to be done.  South Carolina senator Dick Harpootlian recently urged Gov. McMaster to do something to stop the spread of COVID-19.

Harpootlian urged DHEC to use their powers to “first warn and then close irresponsible businesses” as a way to stop community spread of COVID-19. In a letter, Harpootlian explained that the SCDHEC had legal authority to control the situation. He is asking them to enforce safety rules including social distancing.

Harpootlian then explained that South Carolina faces two “horrible” options:  a statewide shutdown or a “humanitarian crisis of uncontrollable deaths and incapacitated hospitals and medical providers.”

“After extensive discussions with DHEC, I am imploring them to exercise their powers under the Emergency Health Powers Act (EHPA),” he wrote. Under the EHPA, SCDHEC could close businesses that are not enforcing safety rules.

At this time, South Carolina is not safe,” Harpootlian wrote. “If you want to protect the economy and educate children, we must do a better job fighting the virus.”