As COVID-19 vaccinations continue a year after pandemic, focus turns to next steps

Updated: Mar. 12, 2021 at 9:26 PM EST
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MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WMBF) - As South Carolina surpasses the one-year mark since the first COVID-19 case was reported in the state, eyes are now turned toward the future.

A year later, three vaccines are now available - offering hope to return to life as we knew it before the virus changed everything.

RELATED COVERAGE | COVID-19: How our lives have changed one year later

“This is really an exciting time for us to be very optimistic as we approach the post-pandemic world,” said Dr. Gerald Harmon, of Tidelands Health.

While that feeling of hope exists, it doesn’t take away from the lives and time lost over the past year due to COVID-19.

City leaders looking to best protect their communities say they know that all too well.

“I think Myrtle Beach handled it as good as most cities did,” said Myrtle Beach Mayor Brenda Bethune. “For something that was so unexpected and something we’ve never had to plan for.”

That feeling was also shared by other leaders in the Grand Strand.

“Not only did we not expect the pandemic to have this long of a hold on us,” said Conway Mayor Barbara Blaine-Bellamy. “But neither could I have anticipated it go by so fast.”

Hand-washing, mask-wearing and social distancing still remain the norm even a year later, and Harmon says he thinks those measures will be sticking around.

“Even in the post-pandemic, fully-immunized world, some people are still going to wear masks,” he said.

While those steps the curb the virus may continue in many daily lives, state leaders are now taking steps to ease up restrictions issues early on in the pandemic.

Just within the past couple of weeks, South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster eased up the requirement of masks and lifted an order prohibiting large group gatherings.

Despite that, Bethune and Blaine-Bellamy both told WMBF News they aren’t ready to relax their own local mandates just yet.

“I believe that any relaxing of the mask ordinance and social distancing will be to our peril,” said Blaine-Bellamy. “We’ve seen it before that our numbers spike when we relax.”

“We need to keep some safety measures in place for the time being,” said Bethune. “I think anyone planning larger events right now realizes it has to be done differently.”

Those from all walks of life have learned to stay safe - from restaurant owners, teachers and especially frontline healthcare workers.

But as for the future, many ask if we will ever return to the sense of normalcy we once knew before the coronavirus changed our lives.

“We will be able to eventually get rid of the masks and have our large gatherings,” said Harmon. “But we’ve experienced an educational gain from this pandemic. We are smarter from it. We can wash our hands, not go to work sick, we can work from home and still get the job done. So there will be a new post-pandemic world that will resemble the pre-pandemic, but a few nuances in physical changes.”

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