COLUMN: Senator Tim Scott on Coronavirus

In recent weeks, the world has seen the spread of COVID-19, commonly referred to as the coronavirus. Originating from China, the virus has made its way to the United States, affecting people throughout the country.

In South Carolina, we have seen a number of cases already, and the Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) has been closely monitoring the situation in the state. South Carolinians who think they might have been exposed to COVID-19, the novel coronavirus, should contact DHEC, which can provide information on where to get tested and receive medical assistance, if needed.

Given ongoing efforts to scale up testing throughout the nation in order to better detect and address COVID-19, we should expect to see the number of confirmed cases in the U.S. increase in the coming days. I applaud the White House’s Task Force on COVID-19 for working tirelessly, around the clock, to proactively address this public health challenge with the urgency and dedication that it merits.

While this is a serious issue, the federal government is recommending that everyone limit social gatherings to 10 people or less for at least the next 14 days and to practice social distancing to avoid the spread of the virus. It is also recommended that the public follow commonsense practices such as thoroughly washing your hands for 20-seconds under warm water, avoiding shaking hands or hugging in public spaces, and staying home when sick. Similar to the common cold and influenza season, people can reduce their chances of contracting the virus by practicing good hygiene and disinfecting surrounding areas when in public and at home.

Given the current situation, the government has not placed a ban on domestic travel; however, it is best to avoid traveling to states with high numbers of reported cases such as Washington, New York or California.  The Department of State has also provided a full list of countries with travel advisories. While it has been commonly rumored that airplanes and airports are common places to contract the virus, airplanes are actually un-conducive to viral spread given the plane’s system of air circulation. As with common colds and influenza, handrails, door handles, restroom levers and other commonly touched surfaces present a much higher risk of spreading the virus. Those who are older and those with weaker immune systems or other health challenges should consider avoiding unnecessary travel, as well as travel on cruise ships. 

In an effort to combat the virus, I joined my colleagues in voting for more than $8 billion in emergency funding to combat the coronavirus, which the president signed. The package is comprehensive, with funding for measures including vaccines and therapies to combat the virus, diagnostics, telehealth, state reimbursements, and loan subsidies so the Small Business Administration can assist small businesses impacted by the outbreak. We are also working together to pass a coronavirus relief package to assist those in our nation who have been negatively impacted by the virus.

As we continue to closely monitor the situation, those with questions and concerns should follow or for updates. I will continue to closely watch and engage on the situation, and the White House and Congress are considering options to ease the economic concerns especially for vulnerable Americans working paycheck to paycheck.

For additional resources, a compiled list is featured on my website HERE.