Why SCEMD asked MUSC to “pause” its newly released COVID-19 Warning Level system

Charleston County News

CHARLESTON COUNTY, S.C. (WCBD) – The South Carolina Emergency Management Division explained why they asked the Medical University of South Carolina to rescind its use of the ‘Charleston Area COVID-19 Warning Level system.’

Last week, MUSC launched a new system that will identify daily COVID-19 alert levels in the Charleston area.

The four-level system includes ‘Code Green,’ ‘Code Yellow,’ ‘Code Orange,’ and ‘Code Red,’ with Charleston currently in Code Orange status. The color indicates significant and growing levels of the COVID-19 virus in the Charleston area, with ongoing or rapid increases in transmission.

“It’s a good idea, and it already exists,” said Derrec Becker, SCEMD’s Chief of Public Information & External Affairs. “We are in awe of everything MUSC has done and continues to do throughout this pandemic. We fully appreciate their desire to inform residents in manner that stresses urgency regarding the need to wear masks and keep a safe distance from others.”

Still, Becker said only “authorized alerting authorities” can issue public alerts and warnings.

Emergency public alert and warning systems are regulated by the federal government, including FEMA and the FCC.

Becker said these regulations are designed to minimize confusion when an alert is issued and to prevent abuse or illegal duplication of such systems.

The state currently has a joint information center established to coordinate consistent public information and to make sure all agencies can work together. “We are more than happy to work with MUSC and local emergency managers to develop any emergency alert and warning messages they deem appropriate for the tri-county area,” said Becker.

A spokeswoman for MUSC, Heather Woolwine, said they did notify state leadership of the system prior to its launch.

“SCEMD then contacted us later with concerns about possible confusion with the statewide system they administer during emergency events,” said Woolwine. “At their request, we agreed to suspend the system and hope to work with them soon on a state-driven effort for COVID-19 warning levels.”

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