Editorial Roundup: South Carolina

Post and Courier. September 16, 2023.

Editorial: Don’t be fooled by updated snake oil, even if our legislators are

A reporter for S.C. Public Radio summed up the public display that occurred at the Statehouse on Tuesday with this social media post: “Turned on the SC Senate panel hearing about the COVID pandemic and instead it’s someone testifying about vaccines and autism.”

Five years ago, nearly everybody realized that the people pushing discredited claims that childhood vaccines caused autism were among the most unhinged members of a tiny fringe — and not the right-wing fringe but the left-wing fringe.

Today, we have legislative leaders who are either so gullible that they buy the snake oil of the anti-vaxxers or else so deceptive that they pretend to, in order to placate the growing minority of extremists in their districts.

Meantime, we have a normally sensible governor once again conflating the truly problematic COVID lockdowns with the mask requirements that made it safe to end those lockdowns much sooner than too much of the nation (and too many S.C. schools) actually did.

What Gov. Henry McMaster gets right is that the lockdowns were harmful — to our children and to our economy — and that there’s no need to bring them back. What he gets wrong is his implication that mask requirements were harmful. It’s fair to argue about how effective they were, since most people believed incorrectly that they protected the wearer, but harmful they never were; they were simply one tool that made it safer to abandon the lockdowns.

We had so hoped we were done with all this. We had hoped with all the serious talk of vaccine mandates or even mask mandates long past, our Legislature could go back to dealing with problems that never stopped being problems. And that eventually the anger that both left and right extremists had used during the pandemic to whip up others for political or personal gain would dissipate.

After all, the world changed when COVID-19 vaccines became widely available. Those of us who were worried about getting infected or infecting others could now get vaccinated. And while that wouldn’t necessarily prevent us from contracting the virus if an unvaccinated carrier insisted on spraying his saliva in our faces, or our children’s faces, it greatly reduced the chance that we’d wind up in the hospital, or dead. That meant that outside of hospitals and select other medical facilities, there was no longer a need to require people to wear masks.

Because, as a reminder: We took extraordinary actions in the pre-vaccine days because most people who contract COVID don’t know they have it, it’s tragically easily spread, and although it’s never been as virulent as the flu, the tremendous number of people who were contracting the new virus drove the hospitalizations and deaths into the stratosphere. In South Carolina alone, it has killed more than 20,000 through June of this year.

Lawmakers need to invite public comments when they’re considering legislation, which they weren’t doing this week. Even then, though, they often limit testimony to as little as 3 minutes a person. On Tuesday, they went out and invited self-proclaimed “experts” to spread lies about COVID and other vaccines for a full day: a chiropractor, a dermatologist, family doctors. They let a partner at a New York law firm that’s made millions of dollars working for a leading anti-vaccination group spit out his nonsense for 90 minutes. But as The Post and Courier’s Alexander Thompson reports, they didn’t bother finding a virologist or a vaccine researcher.

We count on our elected leaders to exercise good judgment, especially in matters of public health and safety, and this performance was the complete opposite of that. Beyond the obvious damage such a spectacle does to efforts to protect people from becoming seriously ill or dying from COVID, these spurious claims create fertile ground for conspiracy theories and misinformation that erode confidence in other vaccinations and science in general. We deserve better.

That some legislators are frightfully gullible or disturbingly deceptive doesn’t mean we have to imitate them. Indeed, we can’t. We should get our COVID booster and our flu shot. Even more importantly, we have to make sure our children and grandchildren keep getting the vaccinations against measles, mumps and rubella, diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis, chickenpox and polio that have turned killers into risks that can be managed — and that aren’t even risks as long as we reject the lies about vaccines.


Times and Democrat. September 14, 2023.

Editorial: Important day for rivers and beaches

Hurricane season produces many problems, even when the storms do not directly hit South Carolina. Waves and wind from storms such as Hurricane Lee push trash onto beaches, marshes and into tidal waterways.

The 34th annual Beach Sweep/River Sweep on Saturday, Sept. 16, offers a chance to remove debris from those areas and from inland waterways.

Each year thousands of people volunteer for the sweep, South Carolina’s largest one-day litter cleanup of beaches, marshes and waterways. From 9 a.m. until noon, groups spread out on foot or in boats from the various cleanup sites.

The S.C. Sea Grant Consortium partners with the S.C. Department of Natural Resources to organize the statewide event, which is held in conjunction with the Ocean Conservancy’s International Coastal Cleanup. Anyone can participate – individuals, families, schools, youth groups, civic and conservation clubs and businesses.

Recent hurricane seasons have seen volunteers remove all manner of debris, including sections of breakaway docks. But it is the “routine” litter that tells a story.

Data from Beach Sweep/River Sweep events indicate South Carolina’s aquatic litter problem is closely tied to the careless disposal of everyday items such as cigarette butts and the type of things one might take to the beach or lake to eat and drink.

Plastics and our throwaway lifestyle are top culprits. The very thing that makes such material useful to life – it is lightweight and durable – makes it a menace when disposed of improperly in waterways. It floats and is not readily biodegradable.

Cigarette butts are the most-often reported items, followed by foamed items, plastic pieces, metal beverage cans, plastic food bags/wrappers, plastic beverage bottles, plastic caps/lids, plastic straws, miscellaneous plastics, glass beverage bottles, paper pieces and plastic cups/utensils.

Can you imagine what our rivers would be like now — with so many more people and so much more waste – if people still disposed of trash and garbage in the same way as they once did? And volunteers and others did not pick up tons of trash each year? The waterways would be unusable.

Enforcement cannot prevent the trashiness. Responsibility is the key and it begins with every individual.

Caring is another way to make things better. The thousands of volunteers with Beach Sweep/River Sweep prove it. In the cleanup’s history, tons of litter have been collected, and much of it was recycled.

Last year, over 3,000 volunteers cleared 16.5 tons of debris, covering 210 miles statewide.

Clearing the state’s beaches and rivers of litter: Clearly worthwhile.

To participate in coastal counties, visit https://www.scseagrant.org/bsrs-sites or contact Susan Ferris Hill at 843-953-2092 or susan.ferris.hill@scseagrant.org. To participate in inland counties, visit https://sweep-scdnr.hub.arcgis.com/pages/volunteer or contact Bill Marshall at 803-734-9096 or marshallb@dnr.sc.gov.