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On Thursday morning, the Spartanburg County Council held a special meeting to vote on whether to ask residents and visitors to wear face coverings – not just masks – at grocery stores and pharmacies in the county. The resolution adopted 3-1 was largely symbolic, as most measures by county and local governments have been amid a stunning spike in confirmed COVID-19 cases and escalating death totals.

There will be no enforcement, in other words, if someone walks into a supermarket without a mask on.

Scott Morgan / South Carolina Public Radio

Back in January, South Carolina Public Radio spoke to Dr. Alecia Watt, the director of Greenville Technical College’s Educational Opportunity Program, about the school’s initiative to identify and retain African-American male students who were at risk of dropping out.

The original feature is here.

Scott Morgan / South Carolina Public Radio

Two calls to change names tied to the Confederacy occurred in Rock Hill Friday. One was the call by the Winthrop University Board of Trustees to change the name of Tillman Hall back to Main Hall – a move echoing this exact call at Clemson University last week and similar to the one at the University of South Carolina to remove the name Sims from a dorm; the other an effort to rename Confederate Park.

Scott Morgan / South Carolina Public Radio

On Tuesday, Chester Police Chief Eric Williams held a press conference regarding the killing of 28-year-old Ariane McCree by a city police officer last fall.

Williams said the press conference was an effort to be fully transparent in an incident that has dogged the department since November. Hear the full press conference below.

Scott Morgan / South Carolina Public Radio

Capt. Cheryl Cromartie knew she wanted to be a police officer when she was nine years old. She was driving with her grandmother and saw something she'd never seen before -- a black female cop.

She joined the Greenville County Sheriff's Office 27 years ago and still did not see many colleagues who looked like her. She decided to be a game-changer for African-American women who might want to consider police work.

She succeeded, all the way up to a leadership position -- the first black woman in the department to achieve every new rung on the ladder.

And now she's concerned that without some reform in the wake of so many racially charged incidents involving police officers, young black men and women will not want to enter law enforcement when the community most needs them to.

Below is a conversation with Capt. Cromartie, who describes in complex, anguished detail what it's like to be torn by two sides that always seem to be at odds with each other. 

Scott Morgan / South Carolina Public Radio

Marlboro County is not among South Carolina’s healthiest. Data from 2019 by the Department of Health and Environmental Control shows Marlboro to be well above state averages for every chronic health condition and risk factor it measures, well below state averages for vaccinations and physical activity, and a contender for the county with the highest percentage of families living below the poverty level in South Carolina.

Marlboro is also one of the state’s most rural counties, and it has one of the highest black populations in the state. 

Scott Morgan / South Carolina Public Radio

How does a gym for a high-contact sport like mixed martial arts or boxing go about its business when there’s a virus in the air that demands we stay far apart?

The short answer: Carefully.

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If no other metric would convey the weight Greenville County’s institutions and residents are giving the discussion of how to dismantle ingrained racism in the county, the attendance at Tuesday’s Community Matters online forum would do it.

Scott Morgan / South Carolina Public Radio

Chester County Sheriff Max Dorsey doesn’t want his county to make the news because it’s on fire.

“I don’t want [Chester] to look like burning buildings,” he said. “I want the world to see Chester as unified.”

Scott Morgan / South Carolina Public Radio

On Saturday morning, about 1,000 residents of all ages and races gathered in Rock Hill’s Fountain Park to protest the death of George Floyd, a black man who died in the custody of four police officers  in Minneapolis, Minn.

Floyd’s death sparked protests in cities across the U.S. over the past week, calling for racial justice and an end to what protesters say is a history of police abuse and mistreatment of black citizens.

While some protests have turned violent, including one in Charlotte Friday afternoon, the Rock Hill march was one conceived in peace as a way to bring attention to the plight of black communities.

Pixabay

When the U.S. Treasury released its list of jurisdictions that would be getting money from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security, or CARES, Act, someone had to tell the Greenville County Council that the county was on it.

“Somebody said, ‘Hey, I think I saw you guys on a website,’” said Council Chairman Butch Kirven. “We looked and printed out the list, and sure enough, there we were.”

Along with the listing was the amount of money the county would be receiving to help recharge its COVID-choked small business economy – $91.4 million.

Scott Morgan / South Carolina Public Radio

The Medical University of South Carolina’s hospitals in Lancaster and Chester are mostly back to being fully staffed. A little more than a month ago, around 75 of MUSC Health’s 900 layoffs happened at these two Upstate locations, but Scott Broome, the CEO for the Lancaster and Chester locations, said he expects a fully returned staff by July 1.

It’s a far cry from where the hospitals were just weeks ago.

Scott Morgan / South Carolina Public Radio

Earlier this month, the South Carolina Forestry Commission estimated the that tornadoes that hit the state on April 13 destroyed close to 4,300 acres of trees. In dollars, that adds up to about $4 million in losses to South Carolina’s timber industry.

While that’s less than 1 percent of the state’s timber economy overall, it’s not an evenly distributed sum. Smaller landowners, with 20 to 40 acres and who lost a few acres of trees on April 13,  could face some significant losses, says Patrick Hiesl, assistant professor of forestry operations at Clemson University.

3D Systems

3D Systems, an international 3-D printing equipment company with a plastics manufacturing plant in Rock Hill, is a major reason why 3-D printing is a thing in the first place. That put the company in a pretty good spot to be an early responder to the call for personal protective equipment (PPE) and small specialty parts for hospital machines like ventilators.

But with those “early brushfires” mostly under control, the company’s vice president and general manager of plastics, Menno Ellis, says 3D Systems is now focusing on the next most-needed thing in the fight to rein in COVID-19: diagnostic equipment.

Rev. J.T. Barber / YouTube image

The inequities of COVID-19 are complicated, but one trend stands out above all others – African-Americans in South Carolina are affected by – and dying from – the disease at much higher rates than Caucasians.

So what does that have to do with church? 

Well, the relationship between African-Americans and most public institutions is also complicated.

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