Risk still exists as some stores reopen, experts say

Coronavirus

GREENVILLE, S.C. (WSPA) – Some workers in the health field have concerns after Gov. Henry McMaster released an executive order Monday, allowing some retail stores to reopen.

Dr. Marcus Blackstone, who is chief clinical officer at Bon Secours St. Francis Health System, said the governor’s order was somewhat unsettling to healthcare workers.

“DHEC said the peak happened April 9, but as a health system, we’re not even really seeing a flatten much less a decrease in our COVID cases,” he said.

He said that doesn’t necessarily mean that DHEC’s data is wrong, as different data sets rely on different assumptions. Bon Secours’ dataset also concentrates on Greenville and Pickens Counties, Dr. Blackstone said, while DHEC’s dataset accounts for the entire state.

He said the hospital system’s data shows the curve has flattened out, but that it’s peak won’t hit the Upstate until late May. However, he’s concerned that cases could spike if people stop practicing social distancing.

“You’ve got a frontline staff who are fatigued,” Dr. Blackstone said. “They’ve been doing this for six weeks, and you know, I’ll be frank. When they see this start happening, yeah it’s a little demoralizing to them from a standpoint of they’re still seeing it every day. We’re having admissions every day. And you know you’re kind of taking the reins off what got us here.”

Melissa Fair, who is the director of the Institute of Advancement of Community Health at Furman University, also expressed concerns.

“To start to lift it before we’ve actually seen a steady two-week decline in the number of new cases each day seems a little bit preemptive, especially considering April 16, which was less than a week ago, we had our highest number of new cases in one day,” Fair said.

She said cases could start climbing again.

“That spike could come at a time that’s even more crippling for our economy, like during Summer tourism season,” Fair said. 

Both Blackstone and Fair said that if people protect themselves and others, as well as maintain social distancing as outlined in the governor’s executive order, it will make a big difference in the coming weeks.

“If you’re in a situation, you’re in a grocery store, where you’re handling a lot of things, it’s good idea to wear gloves,” Dr. Blackstone said. “If they do the three of those, wear the mask, wear the gloves, do the social distancing, you know it should have a significant effect.”

In a news briefing Monday, Gov. McMaster said he felt confident that South Carolinians will abide by the social distancing rules when shopping.

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