Questions Remain As SC Virus Committee Winds Down Work
COLUMBIA, S.C. — A group of government, health, tourism, religious and social leaders that Gov. Henry McMaster created to help South Carolina grapple with the coronavirus pandemic is winding down its work.
Accelerate SC met Tuesday with members listening to reports from its committees. They spoke about increased COVID-19 testing, establishing rules that restaurants and barbers had to follow to reopen and obstacles local governments are facing as revenues dip and they have to spend more to fight this pandemic.
They got a first look at how South Carolina might spend the $1.9 billion in federal help from the pandemic.
A committee suggested $500 million be put back into the unemployment trust fund being drained by double-digit unemployment; $250 million designated to help out public and private hospitals; $100 million to expand broadband internet into rural areas without it; and $160 million for a week of summer instruction to help elementary school students catch up on reading and other lost skills.
Leaders of the group said that plan was still preliminary and will likely change before final recommendations are given to Gov. Henry McMaster around the end of the month.
McMaster promised to get details on spending the federal money and submit it to the General Assembly in a few weeks so they can debate and approve it like a state budget. Additional federal money is also heading to the state, specifically linked to things like education.
Accelerate SC couldn't answer all the questions since the group was created April 20. What will public schools look like in the fall? How can South Carolina prepare for a possible second surge in cases later this year? And how can businesses convince people it is safe to come back to restaurants and attractions closed for nearly two months?
The virus, meanwhile, continues to impact the state. The University of South Carolina announced Tuesday that football coach Will Muschamp, woman's basketball coach Dawn Staley and men's basketball coach Frank Martin all agreed to a 10% pay cut for a year starting in July.
University president Bob Caslen, athletics director Ray Tanner and several other senior university employees also took a 10% cut, which should save about $1.2 million, the school said in a statement.
The university estimates it will lose $40 million through August with more losses possible even with plans to reopen campus and resume in-person classes . Travel and overtime have been curtailed, construction and raises have been delayed and furloughs are being considered, the university said.
There have been more than 9,050 cases of the coronavirus confirmed in South Carolina, and at least 399 deaths, according to an update Tuesday from the state Department of Health and Environmental Control.
For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. But for others, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, the highly contagious virus can cause severe symptoms and be fatal.
Accelerate SC Executive Director James Burns will review the committee reports over the next week or so and produce a full report for the governor.
Burns told the group while their work together might be winding down, their work to make sure South Carolina gets back on track after the pandemic shutdown continues.
McMaster ended the meeting thanking the committee of about 30 for its work with words from a Carly Simon song:
“Nobody does it better. Makes me feel sad for the rest. Nobody does it half as good as you. Baby, you’re the best," McMaster said.
He did not sing.