Last week, the White House released guidelines for reopening the economy. The three-phase approach includes understandable benchmarks and straightforward recommendations for individuals and employers. Never has a clearly communicated plan been so needed or so welcomed.

This week, Governor McMaster issued an executive order allowing previously shuttered retail stores, including furniture stores, department  stores, and florists, to reopen with occupancy caps, social distancing practices and elevated sanitation. The order also allows state agencies and local governments to reopen beaches and public docks. Again, very welcome news for the economy.

Meanwhile, South Carolina has not experienced the surge in coronavirus infections or deaths that was initially feared. Beaufort County is among the top ten counties in the state for rate of infection, but our rate (currently 117 per 100,000 or just over 1/10 of a percent) is nearly 18 times lower than the hardest hit counties in New York State. Hospital bed capacity is strong.

We should all feel optimistic about these positive signs and steps forward. A strong response has saved lives and we are making progress toward reopening and recovery. Optimism is justified and needed… as long as we balance optimism with continued vigilance.

We want a reopening of business; we do not want a resurgence of the virus.

I urge every business leader in the region to continue following advice from DHEC, CDC, and the White House on social distancing and sanitation practices. Model behavior in your company by wearing a face covering and not congregating in groups. Guide your customers with directional signage and clear instructions. Follow the Governor’s executive order limiting occupancy and continue encouraging remote work when possible.

We’re all tired of this and ready to be back to normal. But if we keep our guards up and remain vigilant, we can help limit transmission and help more businesses reopen and remain open.