Official: ‘This virus is real’

Roper says COVID response threatens fall events statewide

By Jason Evans

Staff Reporter

PICKENS — Acting Pickens County administrator Ken Roper urges residents to listen to “established voices” when it comes to stopping the spread of COVID-19 and not to “fall into conspiracy theories.”

Roper discussed the pandemic during a Facebook Live update video posted Friday morning.

“Pickens County has right now, according to DHEC, 415 active cases going on in the county,” he said. “Those active cases are mainly focused around 29630, 29631, 29642 and 29640, although there are active cases as we speak in every ZIP code within Pickens County.

“There’s no area that’s not being impacted, but it mainly seems to be focused around the Central-Clemson area and the Easley area right now,” Roper continued.

A huge growth in the number of cases has been seen statewide since Memorial Day, but over the previous few days in Pickens County and South Carolina as a whole, “we’ve seen our numbers kind of modulate,” he said.

“Which is good news,” Roper said. “The upward slope that we saw a week or two ago seems to be slowing a little bit.”

Data showed relatively few tests done on July 6, he said.

“I’m a little concerned that maybe what we see as a trend where the numbers are lowering might just be because there weren’t a lot of results reported on a day or two,” Roper said. “So, we’ll keep watching that.”

Roper wanted to talk about “who is testing positive.”

“It’s interesting in that about 4 percent of the positives are for people 80 years old or greater, about 6 percent are those between 71 to 80, 10 percent from 61 to 70, 14 percent … 51 to 60,” Roper said. “Far and away the biggest age group is that age group between 21 and 30 — young adults. 22 percent of the positive cases reported are from people in that young adult, 21 to 30 age group.”

Young adults should be mindful that while they may not have underlying health conditions that cause them to be concerned, “you don’t want to be a vector to someone else that does have those health concerns,” he said.

What can Pickens County residents do to help stop the spread?

“It hasn’t changed,” Roper said. “The CDC and DHEC continue with consistent guidance — consistent guidance which I believe, because I trust that this is not part of some global conspiracy. I trust that this is not part of some political manipulation.

“This virus is real,” he continued. “It’s really happening, and it’s really in our communities. Instead of falling into all of those conspiracy theories … let’s listen to the established voices, the voices that are medical experts, the voices that we have put into authority.

What those voices tell Americans “is pretty uniform,” Roper said.

“What we can do is practice social distancing, we can wear a mask in public, we can stay home when we can, we can avoid group gatherings, we can practice good hand hygiene — regular washing of our hands,” he said. “If we have any type of symptoms — stay at home, get tested.”

Roper said he wanted to “change how this conversation happens” in the coming weeks.

“I want to get some other voices to talk,” he said.

He recently took part in discussions with Pickens city officials “who were trying to look at what they should do to try and encourage folks to practice good hygiene, social distancing, wearing of masks,” he said.

“They recognize that they don’t really want to get into mandating that,” he said. “Some cities have decided to mandate that, some have decided not. The city of Pickens has decided they don’t want to do that, but they do want to bring together community leaders to try to encourage and educate folks.”

Those discussions could include medical personnel and local residents who have suffered from COVID-19, Roper said.

“I really believe that if we put more faces to this pandemic, it’ll help encourage us and keep us all heading in the same direction,” he said.

Roper ended his video by talking about some of the future events threatened by the pandemic, including the annual Clemson/South Carolina football game and the school year.

“I would hate for us not to have that game this year,” he said. “South Carolina-Clemson is the longest-running, uninterrupted non-conference series in college athletics. It’s important that that game happens. Things like that are going to fall by the wayside unless we make a big change around here — in South Carolina and in Pickens County — in the next few weeks.”

Think of the choices the school district is having to make, Roper said.

“Unless we change a lot of our habits, we’re going to be doing a lot of distance learning in the fall,” he said. “I can see that coming, and that’s not good for our kids. It’s not good for our teachers. It’s not good for our system as a whole.”