By DEUCE NIVEN
Public schools buildings across North Carolina will remain closed for the rest of the current academic year, Gov. Roy Cooper and state education leaders announced in Raleigh Friday.
Another six people have been confirmed positive for COVID-19 in Columbus County, all connected to a family gathering with four confirmed with the coronavirus on Thursday; while a Loris area resident is one of two newly confirmed cases in Horry County.
Horry County Schools’ leaders are also reconsidering commencement options as bows have gone on sale to support the salute of Loris High’s Class of 2020.
This post will cover these topics:
- Governor keeps NC schools closed for the rest of academic year
- Six new COVID confirmations ties to Columbus family gathering
- Loris person is one of two new coronavirus cases
- Graduation options under review in Horry
- Bog-Off teen sells bows to honor LHS senior class
Governor keeps NC schools closed for the rest of academic year
Gov. Cooper’s announcement, with state Supt. Mark Johnson and NC Board of Education Chair Eric Davis, followed by two days a similar decision for public schools in South Carolina.
Public schools have been closed for more than a month, and were scheduled to expire on May 15 unless extended.
Students, parents and teachers have been challenged, the governor said.
“Overnight beloved teachers they saw in real life are now seen only on the computer screen,” Cooper said. “This is such a confusing time for your child, and a hard time to be a parent, especially a working parent.”
Extending the school closing was another of many tough decisions, Cooper said.
“We don’t make this decision lightly, but it’s important to protect the health and safety of our student and staff.”
Many students will need extra help to make up for ground loss in the current situation, Cooper said. “Many will need help to catch up for ground loss. “Next school year will not be business as usual.”
Supt. Johnson said school leaders have by necessity been reacting to events forced by the pandemic, and are ready to pivot to a proactive response going into the new school year months from now.
“This will not be the new normal,” Johnson said. “This crisis has forced us to be reactive. We will finish this year, and plans for the next year will be proactive in the face of this crisis.”
Supt. Johnson noted that national teacher and school staff appreciation day is May 5, and encouraged parents to “do something creative” for teachers, “or simply send a note of gratitude.”
School Board Chairman Davis said the state’s school system will move from the current response phase to a readiness phase in the next two weeks, and later to a re-entry phase to prepare for re-opening schools for the 2020-2021 school year.
Decisions have not yet been made for summer school, summer camps, and other activities ahead of the new school year, the governor said.
A collaborative effort involving health leaders and educators is underway to establish a “new normal” in the next school year, Cooper said. State Department of Health & Human Services Director Dr. Mandy Cowan said that effort will include social distancing plans, increasing nursing support at the public schools, and will recognize that some teachers and students may have chronic medical conditions that must be considered.
Preparations to test for COVID-19 and conduct tracing for any positive test results, and other steps, “are the plans that we will build on over the next number of weeks,” Dr. Cowan said.
Gov. Cooper also announced a $1.4 billion budget proposal from federal CARES Act funding, one that he said was drafted “in the spirit of consensus and compromise.”
That proposal includes $243 million for K-12 education, $77.4 million for higher education, $40 million to address state agency and state ports revenue losses, $80 million for state government operations, and $300 million for transportation operations.
Six new COVID confirmations ties to Columbus family gathering
A “mass gathering” described Thursday as a “large family gathering” is tied to the confirmation of six additional people with COVID-19, a Columbus County Health Department news release said Friday.
That brings to 10 the people who attended that gathering infected with the disease, and brings to 87 to total number of cases confirmed in the county to date, easily the most in southeastern North Carolina, and nearly half of Horry County’s total, where the population is about six times that of Columbus.
“Three of the new positive cases are requiring hospitalization,” the health department reported.”
“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.
“We are BEGGING the public to take the necessary measures to stop the transmission of COVID-19. The ONLY way to reduce the transmission of COVID-19 is social distancing; there is no vaccination.
Preventive measures against COVID-19, recommended by the Columbus County Health Department, include:
- Social distancing (e.g. avoiding crowds, self-quarantining)
- Wearing a mask or face covering when in public places
- 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
Statewide there are 8,052 confirmed COVID-19 cases in 93 North Carolina counties Friday, up 444 from Thursday, with 269 total deaths, the NC Department of Health and Human Services reported.
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.
Loris person is one of two new coronavirus cases
Testing has confirmed two more Horry County residents have contracted COVID-19, bringing the county total to 198, South Carolina’s Department of Health and Environmental Control reported Friday.
One of those new cases was in the Loris Zip Code, bringing that total to 15. One case has been previously listed in the Green Sea Zip Code.
Statewide there have been 5,070 positive tests returned for COVID-19 in South Carolina, up by 168 from Thursday. Eight additional deaths in the state reported Thursday brings that total to 157. One person who died in Florence County, previously believed related to COVID-19, may have succumbed to something else, DHEC reported. That case is under investigation.
Graduation options under review in Horry
Virtual commencement ceremonies remain on the table, but Horry County School District leaders are considering other options for delivering diplomas to the Class of 2020.
“The Horry County Board of Education, the District and school leaders appreciate all the seniors and parents who reached out to us,” a district news release said. “Graduation options and suggestions that are similar to those that are being discussed across the country will be taken into consideration.
“Options include, but are not limited to, the use of football stadiums, alternate facilities, as well as the possible scheduling of an in-person ceremony at a later date. We are all dedicated to finding a satisfactory resolution in the upcoming weeks.”
Reaction to plans announced by Supt. Dr. Rick Maxey prompted the new review. In a video presentation late Wednesday Maxey seemed to close the door on in-person commencement.
“While you, your families, and all of HCS desire traditional ceremonies, in light of the Governor’s closure of public schools, our HCS principals and I agree that the safest and most practical way for honoring each of you is for our graduations and our senior ceremonies to be conducted virtually,” Maxey said.
Specific plans were to be made by principals and others at each of the county’s high schools.
View the superintendent’s message here.
This post will be updated.
Bog-Off teen sells bows to honor LHS senior class
Loris High School’s Class of 2020 will be seeing a big downtown salute soon, if Loris Bog Off Festival Teen Miss Kaitlyn Courtney has her way.
Courtney is selling blue and gold bows, perfect for doors, porches, mailboxes or businesses, designed to show support for seniors who will be missing out on traditional commencement ceremonies due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“My heart breaks for them and I can’t imagine missing my senior year,” Courtney said. “The Loris Chamber of Commerce and myself decided to salute our seniors by displaying bows around Loris. I would love for everyone to get involved in this. Seniors will have the opportunity to stop and take pictures in-front of the banner.”
Bows are $10 each, and Courtney will use the proceeds to purchase a large banner with the name of every member of Loris High’s senior class. The banner will be placed at the Courtyard on Main downtown.
Bows can be delivered or can be purchased at the chamber office at 4242 Main Street. Courtney will post the times she will be at the chamber on her Facebook page, and said social distancing recommendations will be strictly followed.
Any leftover funds will be donated to the Children’s Miracle Network, which stays in the area it is donated.
For details contact Chamber Executive Director Samantha Norris at 843-756-6030. – Jenn Causey
Look for continuing coverage on local impacts from the coronavirus COVID-19 outbreak here and in the Tabor-Loris Tribune in print and online.