Survey shows many business owners worry about COVID-19 surge impacts

Published: Aug. 9, 2021 at 10:01 PM EDT|Updated: Aug. 9, 2021 at 11:44 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - Many business owners in South Carolina are worried about the surge in COVID-19 cases and what impact they could have on their employees and business operations, according to preliminary results of a survey conducted by the South Carolina Chamber of Commerce.

The survey found almost 75 percent of the more than 280 businesses that had responded are concerned or very concerned that the Delta variant of COVID-19 will impact their business negatively, and nearly 40 percent indicated the rise in COVID-19 cases had already negatively impacted their business.

“The biggest concern is that economic activity is going to be curtailed if we have to go back into kind of a partial or full shutdown, and companies have already begun to restrict business travel,” SC Chamber President and CEO Bob Morgan said. “South Carolina has been performing in a very strong way this summer, led by manufacturing and led by hospitality and tourism, and we’d like to see that continue.”

Those concerns have caused many businesses in the state to encourage their employees to get vaccinated and require their employees or consider requiring employees to wear masks regardless of the employees’ vaccination status, the survey results revealed.

Morgan said it will be hard for some companies to survive another economic downturn during the pandemic.

“We’ve read this book before and we know how it ends. People will lose their jobs. Some companies will survive and some will perhaps not,” Morgan said.

Morgan said the chamber is encouraging employers to encourage their employees to get vaccinated to help stop the state’s surge in COVID-19 cases.

“Let’s use the weapon we have so that we don’t have to experience the pain of the economic downturn we went through a year ago,” Morgan said.

Governor Henry McMaster has insisted he will not call for a shutdown that could impact the state’s economy once again.

However, many businesses are taking their own precautions to protect their employees and their operations.

“Now that things have escalated the way they have, it’s just good policy that in our building, everybody whether you’re in a business meeting or in a lab, you’re going to be wearing a mask,” KOR Medical President and CEO Sam Konduros said.

His company is headquartered in Charleston’s WestEdge, the medical innovations district.

KOR Medical specializes in infectious disease testing, and its operations have ramped up dramatically, once again, since COVID-19 cases started surging again in July. Konduros said his employees are expected to wear a mask indoors regardless of vaccination status and are encouraged to get vaccinated. He believes these measures can help keep KOR Medical operational as its being called upon to do even more testing.

“It was very difficult for us when we were incredibly busy months ago trying to battle this pandemic, and we did have a lot employees who contracted it prior to there being vaccines available,” Konduros said. “In real world time we are witnessing very much what we saw when the pandemic began and surging forward months and months ago. Hopefully we’ve learned a lot and can stem that, and gratefully, we do have efficacious vaccines, which is a huge advantage compared to where we were a year ago. So, we certainly have the tools and ingredients to battle it more effectively now.”

Konduros said KOR Medical is brining in more employees now to help with an increased demand in COVID-19 testing. The company’s labs are currently handling thousands of tests from 49 states across the country.

“July just became a huge pivot point for the pandemic once again. The Delta variant is clearly driving it, and still having a large number of unvaccinated people in the country is going to also drive it.” Konduros said. “It means this pandemic is far from over and unfortunately gaining a level of life and energy that none of us hoped we were going to see reoccur.

Konduros said getting people vaccinated against COVID-19 is essential to keeping the state’s economy moving forward. He believes the COVID-19 case numbers show why more people need to roll up their sleeves and get the shot.

“The increase since just the beginning of July is very dramatic. The positivity rate has more than quadrupled in that same time span. And maybe the most telling point is that of all the positives we are getting, 97% are the Delta variant,” Konduros said. “There’s been a ten-fold increase in cases and our positivity rate is over 16 percent. Those are not good numbers. That is not encouraging at this stage of the pandemic. And absolutely what we are witnessing in our lab as one of the nation’s probably more prominent COVID testers is a huge ramp up and a huge increase in both positivity and that that positivity is the Delta variant. So, the Delta variant is real, and I don’t think there’s any hyperbole around those facts. They just are what they are.”

The chamber’s business survey will remain open until Friday, Aug. 13, at which time the results will be finalized and published on the SC Chamber website.

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