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Scott Morgan / South Carolina Public Radio

Blood is in short supply, in large part because of the coronavirus outbreak, says Maya Franklin, a spokeswoman for the American Red Cross in Charlotte, NC.

“That’s resulted in dozens, if not hundreds, of blood drove cancellations by our sponsors,” she says.

That statement only refers to the Carolinas region between Rock Hill, SC, and Greensboro, NC. Nationally, says Franklin’s Rock Hill colleague, Ashley Collier, about 5,000 blood drives had been cancelled, through March 20.  

Allie Smith / Unsplash

This story was expanded on March 26 to include a look at what the data cited in the Kaiser Family Foundation report could mean for South Carolina's rural communities.

Owner Steven Niketas (far right) looks out from his empty restaurant "Stellas" in Charleston.
Victoria Hansen/ SC Public Radio

Vacant parking spaces stretch on, along empty sidewalks in downtown Charleston.  A lone man drags his luggage as he easily crosses typically bustling King Street.  It’s quiet; too quiet.

This is Charleston post coronavirus.

Down the street off upper King, the owner of Stella's Restaurant Steven Niketas breaks a sweat.  He’s anxious about the recent, emergency order from the governor closing restaurants and bars statewide.

Kaitlyn Cannon / SCETV

Business is suffering some of the worst effects of the coronavirus pandemic. Some, like restaurants, may not be able to make it back, even if our collective quarantine were to end today.

But a few industries are doing very well. In York County, at least, residential real estate is cruising along, thanks in part to historically low interest rates and an already healthy market in the ever-growing Charlotte metro region.

Members of the SC House of Representatives spill into the House balcony to insure proper "social distancing" during debate on Thursday, March 19, 2020
Russ McKinney/SC Public Radio

Like the state as a whole, the Sc General Assembly is being impacted by the coronavirus. The House and Senate held separate, one day sessions this week to approve an emergency appropriation for DHEC to help the public health agency deal with the growing pandemic.

A larger concern on the horizon for state lawmakers however is next year’s state operating budget, and how it might be impacted.

South Carolina’s Mental Health Centers Remain Open

Mar 19, 2020
abstract mental health symbol
GDJ via Pixabay

Update, March 23, 2020: The Spartanburg Area Mental Health Center is now condusting routine consultations onlythrough phone and video. Director Roger Williams says serious cases, new patients, and patients exhibiting suicidal tendencies are still being seen in-person, after screening outside the building.

You can hear it in her voice.  Cacky Rivers who routinely eases the anxiety of brides on their big day is nervous.

"My dad said recently, 'This too shall pass', and that's what's kept me going."

Her voice trails off.  There's a long pause on the other end of the phone.

The "this" Rivers is referring to is the Coronavirus pandemic that has spread across the globe leaving a trail of death and economic uncertainty behind.

“It's a very scary situation," Rivers says.

She likens it to a hurricane, but worse.

U.S. Census Bureau

The Census. We've been doing it every 10 years since 1790 –  in part because it's in the Constitution and in part because it's really, really important to know how many of us there are and where we live.

That doesn't mean it's exactly easy to convince people to answer a bunch of personal questions. Jan Smiley, South Carolina partnership specialist with the U.S. Census Bureau, says Census takers often have to contend with citizens who are worried about what the bureau wants and what it's going to do with the information it collects.

The short answer, Smiley says, is nothing sinister.

Scott Morgan / South Carolina Public Radio

Rock Hill has two services the city's homeless population uses on a daily basis to get something to eat. One is the MyRide bus system, a free, citywide service for all; the other is the Dorothy Day Soup Kitchen,

MyRide drops off across the street from the soup kitchen Monday through Saturday at around 11:30 a.m. There, a usually packed No. 2 route bus mostly empties and riders make their way to a hot lunch at one of the soup kitchen's tables, amid plenty of chatty company.

On Monday, lunch was not hot, not chatty, and not served on a plate taken to a table. It was a ham and cheese sandwich, a ham buscuit, some snacks, and a diet Mountain Dew, placed inside a plastic shopping bag and given at the door. Guests took their lunches, thanking the women who give them, and strolling away to various places on a chilly, cloudy morning.

It is a meal most certainly made on the fly, in reaction to a stunning and sudden outbreak of a pandemic

that demands people all over the United States keep their distance from each other. Jan Stephenson, the director of Dorothy Day Soup Kitchen, says the sandwich-and-biscuit lunch is not ideal, but it is what could be done today.

DHEC Announces First COVID-19 Related Death

Mar 16, 2020
South Carolina's first COVID-19 related death was a resident of Lexington Medical Center Extended Care Skilled Nursing Facility
Lexington Medical Center

The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) has reported the state’s first death related to COVID-19 novel coronavirus.

“We regret to report that South Carolina has suffered its first death in an elderly person recently reported to have been diagnosed with COVID-19 who was a resident of Lexington Medical Center Extended Care Skilled Nursing Facility,” said Dr. Brannon Traxler, DHEC Physician Consultant. “Our state health officials continue to work with national and local partners to respond to this ongoing public health matter.”

Live coverage of Governer Henry McMaster's remarks at 5:00 p.m. S.C. Public Radio offer a video stream here.

Aerial view of MUSC's drive-through collection site in West Ashley where people can be swabbed for the coronavirus from their carss
Sarah Pack/ MUSC

It's not the typical thick, green coating of pollen that has people scrambling indoors this spring in Charleston.

Instead it's something much more serious; a highly contagious coronavirus with a spiky crown, prickling communities with fear and prompting the World Health Organization to declare a pandemic.

But like the pesky pollen, the new and potentially deadly virus is striking at the start of Charleston's busy tourist season.

File photo: S.C. House of Representatives chamber
Russ McKinney/SC Public Radio

The state is on its way to having a record state budget.  The House of Representatives this week approved next year’s state spending package, and for the first time it totals over $10 Billion . 

The state’s soaring population coupled with an exceptionally strong economy is leading to larger than expected tax revenues allowing state lawmakers to approve significant spending increases for programs such as education, public safety, and infrastructure.

Pi Day Celebrates a Number We Couldn't Live Without

Mar 12, 2020
Saturday, 3/14, is Pi Day.  The mathematical constant known by the Greek letter pi is approximately 3.14, but actually, as an irrational number, goes on for infinity.  Also , happy birthday Albert Einstein, born 3/14!
Dennis Wilkinson [CC BY-NC-SA 2.0] via Flickr

Saturday, March 14 is Pi Day, a day to celebrate that unique number represented by the Greek letter pi.  It's about 3.14 (hence its celebration on 3/14), but University of South Carolina mathematician Josh Cooper says it's an irrational number, meaning it goes on forever after the decimal point.  
 

Scott Morgan / South Carolina Public Radio

Back in January, I sat down with Dr. Melissa Nolan, an epidemiologist at the University of South Carolina, in her lab at the Arnold School of Public Health in Columbia. We talked about how well the state could handle an outbreak of an infectious disease like influenza.

Pretty well, it turns out.

“Influenza is one that we’re probably the most prepared for,” Nolan said.

And that would have been the end of the conversation, had she, 34 seconds later, not said this: “What we’re not very well-prepared for, though, are vector-borne diseases.”

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