Saturday marks one year since the first coronavirus cases were reported in SC. For an entire year, America has been shrouded by the COVID cloud. Some states have taken lockdown to the extreme, shuddered churches and businesses, killing the economy, bankrupting businesses, and even asking folks to snitch on their neighbors for violating social gathering edicts.
Fortunately, liberty-loving South Carolina took a much lighter approach seeking ways to stay open and keep people employed while staying safe. That’s why SC fared better than most states.
Follow the Science
During this past year, Dr. Fauci & Company has told us to “follow the science” while often reversing course on their previous pronouncements and recommendations. That left us to sort out the truth, which was elusive thanks to the uninquisitive, hysterical, biased national media.
So, this week I “followed the science,” or in this case, the math. I requested from SCDHEC a summary of statewide deaths for the past three years to fairly compare 2020 deaths with two previous years.
While COVID was listed as the cause of death of 3,874 South Carolinians last year, deaths attributed to heart disease, cancer, flu, pneumonia, accidents, and other diseases fell by a nearly identical number, 3,900. Honest experts say very few healthy people have died directly from COVID. Most COVID deaths came from underlying ailments while testing positive for COVID. Those deaths took the far greatest toll among the ailing elderly.
Great news! Another large group of South Carolinians will be eligible to schedule their COVID-19 vaccination appointment starting this Monday, March 8th. Additionally, SC is expecting to receive more vaccine doses in a week than it has all year.
Deliveries of first doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines should total about 111,000 for the week of March 8, the day appointments open to more people. The state is also expecting a shipment of 41,100 vaccines made by Johnson & Johnson next week, according to SCDHEC.
Two large vaccination clinics held in Aiken Thursday had ample supply of vaccine. They quickly received a waiver from DHEC to vaccinate those in the 1-b category. Starting March 8th, the following groups may schedule an appointment to receive their vaccine.
Health experts hope that by mid-April, we can move to include all individuals 45+ and by May, all individuals 16+ can receive a vaccination if they so choose. For more info about how to qualify, visit https://scdhec.gov/covid19/covid-19-vaccine.
This week, Texas and Mississippi dropped their statewide mandatory COVID mask requirements. That triggered many inquiries to me as to when SC will get rid of its mask requirement.
SC HAS NO STATEWIDE MASK REQUIREMENT — NEVER HAS.
In fact, late Friday Gov. McMaster rescinded previously mandatory face covering safety measures in state government offices, buildings, and facilities. The Governor also modified existing emergency orders allowing remaining state employees to return to their workplace fulltime.
“Now that the majority of South Carolinians are eligible to receive the vaccine, and infections and hospitalizations have dropped significantly, state agency heads may safely bring back the last group of state employees working remotely,” said Gov. Henry McMaster.
Closer to home, Aiken has imposed a local mask mandate; North Augusta, other towns and Aiken County deferred. It is a LOCAL decision to end the mask requirement.
Legislative News Briefs
PUSHBACK: Save Women’s Sports Act
Pushing back on new White House Executive Orders allowing transgender boys to play in high school and middle school women’s sports moved forward in the SC House this week. The bill (H. 3477) requires public middle schools and high schools to designate interscholastic or intramural teams as “men’s,” “women’s,” or “co-ed” leagues. The bill would then only allow those born biologically female to play in women’s sports.
PUSHBACK: Gun Restrictions
If Washington Democrats/Socialists had their way, American’s would be disarmed and helpless to protect themselves and others. Just the opposite in SC, where we support and protect the 2nd Amendment. A bill (H.3094) would allow handgun owners to open carry their weapons passed the House Judiciary Committee and soon be debated by the full House. The proposal would allow those with a Concealed Weapons Permit (CWP), which requires firearms training, to carry their hand guns openly. SC is one of five states without some type of open carry law.
PUSHBACK: Teaching America’s Founding Principles
Pushing back on those who want to distort or erase American history, the Senate voted unanimously to approve the “REACH ACT” (S.38) that requires all public schools in SC to provide students instruction in the essentials of the United States Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, the Emancipation Proclamation, and the Federalist Papers, including the study of and devotion to American institutions and ideals. Passing the course would be a requirement for graduation.
Learning Personal Finance
The Senate also passed S.16, a bill requiring public high school students to complete a one-semester course in personal finance before graduation. I hope the legislation receives the approval of the House because personal financial literacy is critical.
Bringing Back ‘Old Sparky’
The Senate approved legislation that brings back the electric chair. The bill requires SC death row inmates to choose between death by electrocution or firing squad if lethal injection drugs remain unavailable. The state has been unable to purchase lethal injection drugs since about 2016. The bill had bipartisan support. The House will now consider it.
State Budget Takes Shape
The annual state budget received committee approval and heads to the House floor for debate later this month. It’s an austere pandemic budget. General Fund spending totals $9.8 billion. As a protection against the economy slowing again, House budget writers set aside $500 million in a contingency fund to cover possible shortfalls in the future. Money is included to give teachers an annual pay bump based on years of experience and education levels. $5.5 million was budgeted to ensure every school in the state has a nurse on campus. Also targeted is $30 million for broadband expansion to address the lack of access to the internet exposed by the pandemic.
Senate OK’s Teacher Pay Raise
The $50 million hikes in teacher salaries, through their annual step-increase, won Senate approval Thursday. Teachers will be given that raise in a lump sum in June. The automatic increase was paused at the beginning of the school year because of the pandemic’s economic uncertainties. The Senate included school nurses in the raise, which requires the bill to be returned to the House for another vote.
Expanding Birth Control
Some women in rural SC communities have difficulty obtaining birth control. A Senate committee sent a bill to the full Senate to expand access to birth control that would allow women to get it without a prescription. If passed, the bill would add South Carolina to 13 states that allow pharmacists to give contraception to women without patient-specific prescriptions.
A House committee voted unanimously to send a bill to the House floor authorizing mobile barbershops in SC. This bi-partisan legislation calls for barbershops on wheels to be subject to the same requirements as brick-and-mortar shops. That would allow barbers to bring their services to customers, just like mobile dentistry, mobile catering and food trucks, mobile pet grooming, etc.
I-20 IS LITTERED!
Highway littered? Yes! But this week, I-20 was littered with bags full of litter! SCDOT crews removed the unsightly litter from the 38 miles of I-20 roadway that runs through Aiken County, which serves as a major gateway from Atlanta and points west. Thank you, SCDOT, for quickly responding to the litter pick-up request from the Aiken Legislative Delegation.
Pictures of the Week
More than a hundred South Carolinians were on hand last night in Rock Hill to support the Article V Convention of States Resolution pending in the General Assembly. Congressman Ralph Norman explained why he believes CoS is the best path for citizens to rein in the out-of-control federal government — put term limits on Congress and force them to balance the budget. It’s time to take action and stand up to Washington!
I’m Available and AT YOUR SERVICE
It is my honor to be of service. If you need assistance during these trying times, navigating though the flow of information on COVID-19, navigating state government or have any thoughts or concerns about what the legislature, please do not hesitate to contact me.
In Your Service,
South Carolina General Assembly
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