Dear Gov. McMaster:

We, as members of the local media who have taken part in somber press conferences and have been reporting on grim statistics, implore you to order our state’s residents to stay at home.

South Carolina had 1,554 confirmed cases of COVID-19 as of April 2— including 130 in Beaufort County, where our offices for Hilton Head Monthly and Bluffton Monthly magazines are located.  

Nationwide, millions of Americans have been ordered to stay home in at least 38 states to help flatten the curve, to help us get back to our normal lives. California spearheaded the movement in mid-March. Others have followed and, according to the New York Times, 297 million Americans are now under stay-at-home orders.

U.S. COAST GUARD CREATING A ‘SUPERBASE’ IN CHARLESTON

Nearly a quarter-century after it was abandoned by the U.S. Navy, the 2,801-acre Charleston Naval Shipyard on the Cooper River is being resurrected to become a “superbase” for the U.S. Coast Guard, thanks to a dredging project that will make the Port of Charleston the deepest harbor on the East Coast by 2021.

“Here we will homeport the most capable surface assets in our fleet, including five national security cutters and a complement of yet to be built offshore patrol cutters,” said Adm. Karl Schultz, commandant of the Coast Guard, in his 2020 State of the Coast Guard address Feb. 20 in Charleston. 

FOUNDATION LAUNCHES CORONAVIRUS FUND

To help Lowcountry residents with hardships and consequences caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, Community Foundation of the Lowcountry has created the Lowcountry Community COVID-19 Response Fund. The fund will rapidly deploy resources to community-based, frontline nonprofit organizations addressing the pandemic in Beaufort, Jasper, Hampton and Colleton counties, helping to ease the burden on employees of small businesses, the food and beverage industry, and others impacted by job losses and reduced wages due to the virus. 

The foundation will match up to $100,000 given to the fund, which will be doled out in phases. The first phase will support health and human services nonprofit groups working with residents who lack access to health care or who are food or housing insecure. 

To donate or for more information, go to cf-lowcountry.org or call 843-681-9100.

At Red Cedar Elementary School one recent morning, families who came to pick up free breakfasts and lunches being offered by Beaufort County School District got more than just food.

The students who received the meals were the focus of loving attention and a reminder about the importance of academics from teachers and staff who volunteered their time. Wearing gloves and smiles, the volunteers asked each parent how many children were in the car.

FEELING SICK? CALL AHEAD FIRST, CONSIDER VIRTUAL VISITS

Staying safe during the novel coronavirus outbreak involves making some smart decisions before seeking health care. 

Symptoms of the coronavirus — formally known as COVIID-19 — include fever, cough and shortness of breath, but many health care providers are urging patients to call ahead before making a trip to the doctor if they’re feeling ill. 

IT’S IMPORTANT FOR PARENTS TO PUT KIDS AT EASE WHEN IT COMES TO CORONAVIRUS

The best way for parents to combat this anxious time is to enjoy some silly time.

“Playing with your kid is one of the best things you can do right now — for them and for you,” said Melanie Trimble, a Columbia-based drama therapist and former trauma specialist.

Bluffton Mayor Lisa Sulka has been sending out daily bulletins of useful information to keep the town informed about the coronavirus. Subscribe to the mailing list at townofbluffton.sc.gov. The town also has produced a map of nonprofit agencies that may be able to help local families who are experiencing financial/food challenges. If you know an organization that may be able to help but isn’t listed, please email Ryan Coleman at rcoleman@townofbluffton.com.

On March 21, Hilton Head Island Mayor John McCann closed all public access to Hilton Head beaches for 60 days to prevent people from gathering. Parking lots and restrooms at public beaches also are closed. His order does not affect properties with private beach access.

Town Hall also is closed until further notice to help slow the spread of coronavirus. Town staff will be available by phone or email. The public is also encouraged to access some services online through the town’s website, hiltonheadislandsc.gov, or to “follow” the town on social media. 

Beaufort-Jasper Water & Sewer Authority reminds residents that only toilet paper should be flushed; wipes — including those labeled flushable — and other products will clog the sewers. 

And though local utilities will not disconnect service during the Covid-19 quarantine, officials say meters will be checked and bills still will be sent out. Residents are asked to pay what they can to prevent a large overdue bill or disconnection once this emergency has passed.

South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster has extended the state’s tax deadline to match the federal deadline, which has been moved to July 15. However, other state taxes are still due June 1.

The Small Business Administration is offering loans to South Carolina businesses that are adversely affected by the coronavirus pandemic. For information, go to sba.gov.

The Voices of El Shaddai, a Hilton Head Island-based choir, was named one of five recipients of the Jean Laney Harris Folk Heritage Award for 2020. The award is presented by the S.C. General Assembly to recognize those who practice traditional art forms and are committed to keeping those traditions alive. Led by founder and director Gail Ragland, the group’s music includes traditional spirituals and contemporary gospel influenced by Gullah-Geechee culture.

We can’t control the national news, but we can manage how we react to the constant barrage of scary headlines. In times of crisis — like the global COVID-19 pandemic — it is critical to manage your stress and mental health. Here, Sarah Eliasoph, executive director of NAMI Lowcountry, the local chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Health, offers some practical suggestions: 

SBA’s Disaster Declaration Makes Loans Available Due to the Coronavirus (COVID-19)

We are in this together. As a courtesy to our business partners we are providing you with this step by step SBA loan application guide. All of South Carolina business are eligible to apply for  Economic Injury Disaster Loans to help cover working capital needs. The maximum interest rate is 3.75% for the duration of the loan.

The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) is offering designated states and territories low-interest federal disaster loans for working capital to small businesses suffering substantial economic injury as a result of the Coronavirus (COVID-19).

WAHHI AWARDS 8 COMMUNITY GRANTS

The Women’s Association of Hilton Head Island recently announced community grants to eight nonprofit organizations. The 2020 grant recipients are the Arts Center of Coastal Carolina, Heritage Library Foundation, Coastal Discovery Museum, Hilton Head Island Sea Turtle Protection Project, The Outside Foundation, Gullah Museum of Hilton Head Island, Hilton Head Island Audubon Society and The Children’s Center.