Charleston leaders should act quickly to curb this virus 

Pandemic Policy

On Tuesday night, Charleston City Council voted on an emergency ordinance that contained several new restrictions and boosted efforts to enforce existing face mask guidelines as well as heftier fines for businesses not adhering to the changes.

I realize for some, the ordinance didn't go far enough, and for others it is misdirected. If our biggest challenge is dramatically reducing transmissions of COVID and reducing our overall positive cases, there is only one approach and it must be a regional approach. While most policy decisions and solutions are best solved at the local level, this is certainly not one of them. In the absence of a state or national mandate, we must adopt a regional, unified approach. It will have the greatest net benefit from a health, safety and transmission standpoint and will send a strong message to others in the state. It is both unfair and shortsighted from a public health standpoint for City of Charleston restaurants and bars to be the only ones closing and/or adhering to new restrictions. We need a consistent policy that is adopted region-wide, because if the City of Charleston is off limits, patrons will simply visit other places. I am hopeful that surrounding mayors, councilmembers and city administrators will follow our lead and join us in these current efforts.

I am confident the City will do a better job enforcing our current policies and this will make a big impact. I have spoken with many restaurant and bar owners and many of them are doing everything we ask of them. They have been patient but they are at their wits' end. We need to ensure these business owners are recognized in our community. We also need to apply consistent rules for everyone and levy fines on businesses who choose not to adhere to the new guidelines. The quicker we can reduce the numbers, the quicker we can get back to business.

Additionally, we are also sending a conflicting message by not including hotels and the short-term rental community in our discussions regarding COVID restrictions. While I understand the economic impact of tourism in Charleston, we need to apply a consistent approach across different sectors. If we think there is no connection with the influx of outside visitors and our increasing COVID cases, we are not looking at the data nor the science.

At this point, I do believe we have the ability to control the spread of COVID without fully closing down businesses but we must implement proper procedures and apply common sense strategies like hourly hand washing, social distancing, contactless transactions, wiping surfaces, mask wearing, daily staff temperature checks and bi-weekly testing of all staff.

If the numbers continue to increase over the next few weeks and a shutdown is called for, I think it's important to acknowledge that we (the United States) have not taken a strategic, targeted approach to COVID. Some businesses across our country have been shut down for months and the stop and go approach has created a tremendous amount of economic damage.

There is a growing body of research that suggests more targeted approaches would still protect public health with less economic pain. We are one of the most technologically advanced countries in the world yet we've failed to use technology to our advantage. If we have the ability to microtarget and track voters' likes and dislikes down to the individual, why can't we utilize the same technology to help us in the fight against this disease? A more targeted approach will give lawmakers a scalpel rather than a sledge hammer and in the end, our policies will not only improve public health, but they will give business owners a fighting chance to actually make a profit during these uncertain times.

Regardless of your politics, we should all try and remain calm, and respectful during this difficult time. Our medical professionals are overworked and are putting themselves in harm's way. Hospitals are understaffed and are worried about capacity issues. Business owners are hurting.Thousands are out of work. Our children haven't been in a classroom in five months and our teachers are not sure what their jobs will even look like when school actually begins. To say this is a challenging and stressful time is an understatement. I am confident we will get through this period and come out stronger but we must stop blaming each other. And finally we must begin to recognize that although our individual rights are critically important and are the bedrock of our country, they do not negate the greater responsibility each of us has to our community, our neighbors and our fellow Americans.

Jason Sakran represents District 3 on Charleston City Council.

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