Home care agency mourns COVID-19 death; business social distancing order is coming; 15 new cases in Horry

By DEUCE NIVEN

tribdeuce@tabor-loris.com

     As a home health agency in Columbus County mourns the loss of one of their own to the coronavirus COVID-19 on Monday, two new cases were reported in the county Tuesday.

     Gov. Roy Cooper also announced new social distancing guidelines for stores that will be addressed in an Executive Order later this week, and another 15 COVID-19 cases were reported in Horry County.

     This post will cover these topics:

  • Home care agency mourns COVID-19 death
  • Gov. Cooper: Business social distancing order is coming
  • Another 15 cases in Horry
  • Two new cases bring Columbus County COVID-19 count to 14

Home care agency mourns COVID-19 death

     Leaders and staff at a Columbus County home health agency are mourning the loss of one of their own to the COVID-19 pandemic, though stressing that he contracted the disease elsewhere and did not infect staff or clients.

     Cape Fear Valley Health CEO Mike Nagowski said Columbus County’s first COVID-19 death was being treated at the Fayetteville hospital when he died Monday, The Fayetteville Observer reported.

     A Columbus County Health Department news release Monday reported the first pandemic death in the county. Nagowski said the patient was between 25 and 40 years of age.

     Carolinas Home Care CEO Melody Campbell told The News Reporter in Whiteville that the patient was a male employee, but because of patient privacy laws would not say where he worked in the county.

     “We are deeply grieving because he was an excellent employee,” Campbell said. “He loved his job and we loved him.”

     Campbell said the employee last day at work was March 31, and that there was no indication that he caught the disease, or spread it, on the job.

     “He did not get it from Carolinas Home Care Agency,” Campbell said. “We do not have another person here or client who is infected with the coronavirus.”

     Regional director Aletha Young said Carolinas staff uses masks and other protective equipment to protect the health of staff and clients.

     “We are an essential business and we have clients that we have to tend to on a 24 hour, seven day a week basis,” Young said.

Gov. Cooper: Business social distancing order is coming

     New social distancing guidelines that will impact “essential businesses” still operating in North Carolina are coming later this week, in the form of a new Executive Order, Gov. Roy Cooper said Tuesday.

     While at least one model projection seems to advise that the governor’s current stay-at-home order should extend at least through May, Gov. Cooper said a decision beyond April 30 has yet to be made.

     While the details are still under consideration, the governor said his order will “put more guardrails on social distancing at store,” including limiting the number of patrons inside the store, perhaps to a percentage of the capacity set by state fire code; requiring six-foot separation between customers, even in check-out lines and in lines to enter the store; and clear barriers between customers and employees, especially at check-out.

     Cooper said he hopes limits on the numbers of customers allowed inside stores will discourage those who visit “just for something to do,” leaving room for those who need essential supplies, including food, for their homes.

     A new emergency child care subsidy program, designed to encourage child care agencies and employees whose service allows essential workers, including health care providers, to do their jobs, was outlined by NC Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Many Cowan.

     “As we face this pandemic, we know our early childhood workforce is a support system,” Dr. Cowan said.

     The new program will provide a $300 bonus for teaching staff in child care centers serving essential workers, Dr. Cowan said, and a $200 bonus for other, non-teaching staff.

     “This is a way Team North Carolina is trying to respond to this unprecedented crisis,” she said.

Another 15 cases in Horry

     Another 15 COVID-19 cases were confirmed in Horry County Tuesday, bringing the total to 91, the state Department of Health and Environmental Control reported.

     Grand Strand communities recorded the most cases, a DHEC breakdown by Zip Code showed, with the Loris area count unchanged in the Tuesday report with three cases, one in the Green Sea Zip Code.

     Gov. Henry McMaster’s work-or-home order, effective at 5 p.m. Tuesday, is designed to re-enforce social distancing guidelines and bans against gatherings of more than three persons in order to slow the spread of the disease, McMaster said Monday.

     Horry County Police Chief Joe Hill, in a press briefing Tuesday, said his officers will pull over vehicles that appear in violation of the governor’s order, and are on the lookout for parties and other gatherings that defy the governor’s order.

     “Call us when you see or hear about parties,” Hill said, “so we can address those issues very quickly.”

Two new cases bring Columbus County COVID-19 count to 14

     Two new COVID-19 cases was reported in Columbus County Monday, bringing the total to 14.

     “Both individuals are doing well and recovering at home,” a health department news release said. “The source of infection is unknown for both cases.

     “The Columbus County Health Department will continue to follow CDC guidelines to protect public health and limit the spread of infection. Based on information provided by the individuals, county public health officials will assess risks of exposure, and determine which, if any, additional measures are needed such as temperature and symptom checks, quarantine and/or testing.”

     Three of the county’s positive cases include a staff member and two residents of Liberty Commons Nursing & Rehab Center in Whiteville, WECT reported Tuesday.

     Confirmation of the employee’s infection came Friday, with staff informed Sunday about the two residents. Neither the employee, recovering at home, nor the residents, in isolation on a designated hall, have any fever or breathing difficulty, a news release from the facility said.

     The employee last worked March 29, while staff have been wearing personal protective equipment when dealing with residents. No staff member has shown any COVID-19 symptom, and all are screened before their shifts begin.

     Health officials continue to urge the public “to take the necessary measures to stop the community transmission of COVID-19.”

     A Health Department reminder of recommended measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 includes:

  • Social distancing (e.g. avoiding crowds, self-quarantining, etc.)
  • Washing hands frequently with soap and water, and for at least 20 seconds each time
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands
  • Avoid close contact with people who are ill
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, throw it away, and then wash your hands
  • Do not reuse tissue after coughing, sneezing, or blowing your nose
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces that are frequently touched

     Regularly updated information from the Columbus County Health Department is available on its Facebook page here.

     Columbus County Health Department’s COVID-19 Call Center is also operating from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. weekdays. Call 910-640-6615 ext. 7045 or 7046.

Updates

     Look for continuing coverage on local impacts from the coronavirus COVID-19 outbreak here and in the Tabor-Loris Tribune in print and online.