How well do you think our state and federal leaders have responded to the coronavirus?

ABC 15's Donovan Harris sat down with Congressman Tom Rice Tuesday to see how he would answer that question.

Their partial conversation is below:

DH: Right now, South Carolina, according to the New York Times, ranks number three in the world in terms of new infections? Do you have any thoughts on that?

TR: I think we did a really good job upfront of holding it down and now it's catching up. I think this virus is going to spread across the country. Upfront, when we slowed everything down, the intent wasn't to wipe the virus out. The intent was to slow it down to a point that was manageable.

DH: Do you think we'll have to go back and shut things down again?

TR: I hope not. The governor has taken the first step to pause when he closed the bars and restaurants at 11 o'clock to stop the sale of alcohol. He recognizes this is a growing problem.

DH: The finger's being point at us as a rise in the spike in cases. Is that concerning to you when you see people blaming this particular area for this rise in cases?

TR: I'm not sure that all of that is properly placed. There certainly is a rise in cases. We're experiencing what other states have experienced three months ago when we shut everything down. I think the governor has acted responsibly through it. I think he's done a pretty good job.

DH: Do you have any criticisms of the federal government now they could be doing to stop the spread of this virus?

TR: I don't think anywhere has stopped the spread of the virus. I don't think they're going to. I think everyone in the world [will respond to flare ups] until we get a vaccine.

DH: People have politicized this virus. They've called it the "Wuhan Flu." You've called it the "Wuhan Flu." People are making this racial. Do you have any thoughts on people politicizing even a mask ordinance?

TR: I think we live in a really political environment right now. I don't think the term "Wuhan Flu" or "Wuhan Virus" is political at all.

DH: Is it racial?

TR: No. Is Spanish Flu racial or Hong Kong Flu racial? Is Ebola racial or every other disease that we've named after the place they arose racial? Absolutely not. I don't hold any ill will toward Chinese people whatsoever.

DH: Do you think there needs to be a state-wide mask ordinance?

TR: I don't think so. I don't think every community is the same. Having police officers tied up trying to make people wear masks would be an impossible burden.

DH: What are your thoughts on students physically returning to classrooms in the fall?

TR: If I was a parent, I'd be concerned but what we need to do is listen to the healthcare experts...

Rep. Tom Rice (R-S.C.) introduced legislation on Thursday that would provide a tax credit for businesses to safely reopen and pay for extra safety measures amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The Healthy Workplaces Tax Credit would provide a refundable tax credit against payroll taxes for 50 percent of the costs incurred by a business for COVID-19 testing, personal protective equipment (PPE), disinfecting, extra cleaning and reconfiguring work spaces to adhere to social distancing guidelines. 

The credit is limited to $1,000 per employee for a business’s first 500 employees, $750 per employee for the next 500 employees and $500 for each employee after that. For example, if a restaurant with 40 employees spends $60,000 on PPE, testing, disinfecting and plexiglass shields, it would receive a $30,000 tax credit against its payroll.

"It’s important we reconnect workers to jobs and prevent more business closures. Our healthy workplace tax credit will support businesses as they reopen by incentivizing them to take extra precautions to protect the health of patrons and employees,” Rice said in a statement Thursday.

Business groups have called for a tax credit, with the National Restaurant Association urging Congress to provide a tax credit for wellness investments like enhanced sanitization, contactless payment services, employee training, PPE and disposable products.

Retail groups applauded the legislation.

David French, senior vice president for government relations at the National Retail Federation, said in a statement that the tax credit addresses "the costs of reconfiguring stores and restaurants to provide more social distancing, and ongoing costs for protective gear and cleaning."

“The Healthy Workplace Tax Credit enables businesses of all sizes to continually make the necessary investments that give workers the confidence to return to work and consumers the reassurance that shopping can be done in a safe manner. Providing employers with this tax credit will help get our economy back on track,” Dave Koenig, RILA vice president of tax, said in a statement.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has declined to impose a nationwide COVID-19 work safety standard and has only issued recommendations. Virginia on Wednesday became the first state to adopt statewide emergency workplace safety standards to deal with the coronavirus.

Congressman Tom Rice is pushing to get more help for local business owners feeling the pinch of the COVID-19 pandemic.

A roundtable discussion with business owners was held in Myrtle Beach to see if they got the Paycheck Protection Program, PPP, and what can be done better for them.

The PPP is aimed at helping business owners keep their workers employed during the pandemic.

Congressman Rice also talked about his plan to introduce a bill that offers a tax credit for maintaining a safe workplace to protect employees during the pandemic.

"You know what, we'll get past it. We will get past it and we will recover," Rice said. "We've got economic policies in place right now that we will recover and we will recover quickly once we get past this pandemic."

Rice held two more roundtable discussions Tuesday in Florence County.

Local business owners came together at the Florence Chamber of Commerce to share the success they had using the PPP. Owners say the program allowed them to navigate the pandemic while not having to layoff their staff.

One of the topics discussed was how small businesses had trouble applying or using the money. One of the possible ideas to help was offering financial literacy training.

"What we have been trying to do through this pandemic is preserve jobs for as many people as possible and we're hearing from the business community about how they have been affected by our relief program and how we can do better" says Rice.

The congressman emphasized the importance this feedback going forward.