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Greenville Business Magazine

And the Future Holds?

Sep 13, 2021 02:10PM ● By David Dykes

So what’s next?


In these times of Covid-19 and the Delta variant, consider:

- South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson on Aug. 10, 2021, delivered a letter to Columbia City Council and Mayor Steve Benjamin warning the school mask mandate they passed violates state law and the city must take action or face legal consequences.

“It is the opinion of my office that these ordinances are in conflict with state law and should either be rescinded or amended. Otherwise, the city will be subject to appropriate legal actions to enjoin their enforcement,” Wilson wrote to council members.

Benjamin, in response, promised to defend the city’s position.

“Our City government has a constitutional authority and responsibility to preserve the lives, safety, health and welfare of our city and our citizens,” Benjamin said in a statement. “This at times requires we must act swiftly and decisively on an emergency basis, and we are assured we are not in violation of state law, and are prepared to defend our position.”

- Prisma Health said it would limit visitation at all hospital and clinical facilities starting Aug. 9 due to the increasing rate of Covid-19 infections.

Adult inpatients, outpatients and ambulatory pediatric patients would be limited to one visitor.

These restrictions also will continue:                   

Visitors must wear a mask covering their nose and mouth (no gaiters or vented masks).          

Visitors will be screened upon entry. Anyone with possible Covid-19 symptoms cannot visit.                  

Visitors must stay with the patient (not go to the cafeteria, gift shop, etc.). People over age 65 and those with chronic illnesses who are not vaccinated should refrain from visiting.

On occasion, visitors should remain with a patient with special needs. Secure approval of attending doctor and administrator for exceptions.

“This measure is essential in the wake of a new surge of hospitalized patients who are very sick with Covid-19. Given the rapid community spread of the Delta variant, the trend is very concerning,” said Dr. Rick Scott, leader of Prisma Health’s Covid-19 response.

- The University of South Carolina dropped its face-covering requirement, citing a legal opinion from S.C. Attorney General Alan Wilson that the General Assembly intended to prohibit public universities from requiring masks in their buildings.

Then, the Post and Courier reported UofSC was among five of South Carolina’s largest colleges that would require masks inside campus buildings for students and staff after a state Supreme Court ruling cleared the path.

The court’s ruling interpreted a rule added to the state budget this session making it illegal for public colleges to require unvaccinated students to wear a mask while on campus, the newspaper said.

But the Post and Courier reported the justices said in their unanimous opinion Aug. 17 that the law does not forbid a universal mask mandate that applies to all on campuses, whether vaccinated or not. 

UofSC reinstated its mandate, effective immediately, just two days before classes were scheduled to start, the newspaper reported. It said the mask requirement does not apply to Gamecock football games at Williams-Brice Stadium. 

In a message sent Aug. 3, 2021, to students, faculty and staff, UofSC Interim President Harris Pastides had said:

“Last week, I authorized face coverings for our university community because my top priority is the safety and health of our students, faculty and staff. During my training in epidemiology, there was a maxim about transmissible diseases like Covid-19 that stated, ‘No one can be safe until everyone is safe.’”

In the meantime, small businesses are struggling to recover, if they’ve stayed open, and to fill jobs. Retail and restaurants are hoping foot traffic will continue to rebound.

Covid-19 has transformed how we work and socialize, which could put the future of cities on a new path, writes Tim Sablik in the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond’s first-quarter 2021 Econ Focus

So what have we learned, and which way is up?

During a Greenville Area Development Corp. executive briefing at Greenville’s downtown Westin Poinsett hotel last month, four South Carolina higher education experts offered observations.

In a panel discussion moderated by GADC CEO and President Mark Farris, the four discussed how Covid has impacted higher education and workforce preparation in the state, how their organizations are leading efforts to advance education to accelerate prosperity and quality of life, and ways our state can improve and advance our educational system.

But what they said they’ve learned from the pandemic in the last 18 months revealed real-life lessons on  educating students – in-person or virtually – and managing an academic environment amid the coronavirus surge.  

Dr. Keith Miller, president of Greenville Technical College, said, “This sounds kind of strange - if there’s anything good about the pandemic it’s that it has caused us, I think, to step back and reevaluate everything we do and how we do it.

“And actually, it would be a huge mistake not to take some of that stuff and move it forward, even post pandemic.”

Wendy York, dean of the Wilbur O. and Ann Powers College of Business at Clemson University, added the pandemic has been “a great kick in the rear” to be more flexible, embrace more technology “and just not being frightened.”

One of the biggest aha moments came, she said, in realizing many undergraduate students liked being online, “but it still matters to them that they show up to class and have somebody love on them or kick them because they didn’t get their homework in…they really need that human touch.” 

Said Dr. Elizabeth Davis, president of Furman University, a private institution without governmental support: “What I like was the way our folks pivoted through this…We had to figure out how we were going to continue to maximize the resources put toward students so that when we had other financial issues, we touch things that would not affect the entire student experience.”    

She added, “One of the things I tell our folks is that culture is not created during a crisis. Culture emerges during a crisis.”

Dr. Marjorie Jenkins, dean of the University of South Carolina School of Medicine Greenville and chief academic officer for Prisma Health-Upstate, reiterated lessons learned about leveraging technology – telemedicine in her case - and training and educating leaders of tomorrow.

Perhaps we should all take a step back and reflect on what we’ve learned.

We might be surprised. And it might help us determine what’s most important – and what’s next.