By DEUCE NIVEN
Another seven people in Columbus County, six more in Horry, were confirmed with COVID-19 Tuesday, as North Carolina health officials said more than half of the state’s adult population is at higher risk if infected with the coronavirus.
North Carolina will begin a slow-walk towards a new normal at 5 p.m. Friday, Gov. Roy Cooper announced, with Phase 1 of a three-phase effort to restart the economy begins with an amended Executive Order.
Meanwhile Whiteville fine-dining restaurant The Chef & The Frog is hearing up to offer free meal for as many as 4,000 people in the next five weeks, with weekly distribution of 200 boxes of food to begin Wednesday.
This post will cover these topics and will be updated:
- Seven more in Columbus face COVID infection
- More than half in NC at higher risk
- Six new coronavirus infections in Horry
- Chef & the Frog will be hopping with free meals
- Governor eases NC restrictions effective Friday
Seven more in Columbus face COVID infection
With seven newly confirmed COVID-19 cases Columbus County has confirmed 177 people infected with the coronavirus. 11 who have died, the most recent overnight Sunday, a health department news release said.
“Three of the new cases are connected with congregate living facilities in Columbus County, two cases are connected to positive family members, and two cases are healthcare workers,” the news release said.
Tabor City leads the county in the number of confirmed cases, Chadbourn has more deaths, Zip Code data released by the NC Department of Health & Human Services shows.
There have been four COVID deaths recorded in the Chadbourn Zip Code, three at Lake Waccamaw, one each in Fair Bluff and Nakina, the DHHS online dashboard showed Tuesday.
Tabor City, Whiteville and Chadbourn, all with significant virus outbreaks and nursing homes or assisted living facilities, had the bulk of the county’s confirmed coronavirus cases: 52 in Tabor City, 49 in Whiteville, 21 in Lake Waccamaw.
Chadbourn’s Zip Code, without a congregate living facility reporting a COVID outbreak, had 23 confirmed coronavirus cases with the four deaths.
Other Zip Code data for the county included Nakina, four cases and one death; Fair Bluff, three cases and one death; Cerro Gordo, six cases; Evergreen, Bolton and Riegelwood with three cases each; and Hallsboro with one case.
DHHHS reported no cases in the Clarendon and Delco Zip Codes.
“With the number of COVID-19 cases and deaths continuing to rise in Columbus County, we are BEGGING the public to take the necessary measures to stop the transmission of COVID-19,” the news release said. “The Columbus County Health Department would like to remind everyone of the recommended measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19, which are:
- Social distancing (e.g. avoiding crowds, self-quarantining, no mass gatherings, only going out in public when necessary)
- 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
Statewide there are 12,256 confirmed COVID-19 cases in 99 North Carolina counties Tuesday, up by 408 from Monday, the DHHS reported. There were 452 North Carolina deaths attributed to COVID-19 Tuesday, 22 more than Monday; with 534 current hospitalizations, that number up by 36 from the day before.
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.
More than half in NC at higher risk
More than half (51.1 percent) of North Carolina adults are at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19 because they are 65 or older, have at least one underlying health condition or both, North Carolina’s Department of Health and Human Services reported Tuesday.
Data analyzed by the DHHS was “cross referenced” with risk factors identified by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and showed that 51.1 percent of the state’s adult population are at higher risk for serious illness from the coronavirus, a news release from the state agency said.
Underlying conditions identified by the CDC include chronic lung disease, cardiovascular disease, severe obesity, diabetes, kidney disease, liver disease and immunosuppressive conditions, including cancer treatment, smoking and other immune disorders.
Findings from the analysis include:
- In 2018, 27 percent of people 18–24, 36 percent of people 25–49, 49 percent of people 50–64 and 56 percent of people 65 and older had at least one underlying health condition that is a risk factor for serious illness from COVID-19.
- In 2018, 45 percent of blacks and 42 percent of whites had at least one underlying health condition.
- As of May 4, 31 percent of all people with laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 had at least one underlying health condition.
- As of May 4, 75 percent of all laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 deaths had at least one underlying health condition.
A warning that the data may not be completely precise is in the news release.
“Limitations to this analysis include NCDHHS data sources do not contain all underlying health conditions identified by the CDC and the definitions of the specific health condition may not be an exact match,” it said.
See the full report here.
Another six people in Horry County have been confirmed with COVID-19, South Carolina’s Department of Health and Environmental Control reported Tuesday.
With the latest report Horry County has recorded 236 people testing positive for the disease since the pandemic began and 18 deaths.
None of the new cases appeared to be from the Loris or Green Sea Zip codes, Loris holding at 20 confirmed cases Tuesday, Green Sea at one.
Statewide there have been 6,841 positive tests returned for COVID-19 in South Carolina, up by 93 from Monday; with 296 related deaths, that number up by 13 from Monday.
Chef & the Frog will be hopping with free meals
Meals for several thousand people will be given to Columbus County residents by a Whiteville restaurant that, too, is feeling the pinch of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Chef and the Frog, with support from former Whiteville business owner Rick Edwards, the Columbus Jobs Foundation, Sysco Foods, and anonymous donors will be giving away 200 boxes “with a cooked meal adequate to feed three to four people” during the next five Wednesdays, beginning this week (May 6) and ending June 3.
That’s 1,000 boxes of food to be distributed during a five-week span, enough to feed from 3,000 to 4,000 people.
Curbside pick-up begins on a first-come, first-served basis at noon each Wednesday at the restaurant, 607 South Madison Street in downtown Whiteville. One box will be given per vehicle.
Whiteville Police Department is assisting in planning for the process.
Owners Guillaume and Chef Sokun Slama have experienced a 90 percent drop in business since Gov. Roy Cooper ordered a suspension of business at North Carolina restaurants and bars, managing to bring in some revenue through take-out orders, Guillaume said Friday.
They have turned their focus on others, discussing with efforts news reports about people who were hungry during the coronavirus pandemic.
“These are tough times,” Guillaume said.
Anyone interested in supporting this effort to help feed Columbus County is invited to donate to the Columbus Jobs Foundation, 111 Washington Street, Whiteville, NC 28472 or call 910-640-6608.
Governor eases NC restrictions effective Friday
Phase 1 of what promises to be a slow walk towards a new normal begins at 5 p.m. Friday, Gov. Roy Cooper said during a news conference late Tuesday afternoon.
Gov. Cooper on Tuesday signed Executive Order No. 138, modifying his stay-at-home order and beginning the transition into Phase 1 of a three stage process to re-open businesses and reduce restrictions on the size of gatherings that will continue to keep some businesses closed, for at least another two weeks.
Phase 1, the governor said, is a “careful and deliberate” plan to lift constraints on travel, business operations and mass gatherings.
“I want to be clear: North Carolina’s stay-at-home order will remain in place,” Cooper said. “But it will be modified to allow more reasons for people to leave home and to allow for more commercial activity.”
Some businesses must stay closed as the state continues to battle COVID-19, the governor said.
“COVID-19 is still a serious threat to our state, and Phase 1 is designed to be a limited easing of restrictions that can boost parts of our economy while keeping important safety rules in place,” Cooper said. “This is a careful and deliberate first step, guided by the data, and North Carolinians still must use caution while this virus is circulating.”
Three W’s – North Carolinians have learned a lot about social distancing, the importance of hand washing, and keeping away from crowds, NC Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mandy Cowan said at the news conference.
“We must continue to protect our families and neighbors as we take this cautious step forward,” Dr. Cowan said. “When you leave your home, follow the three W’s: Wear a face covering, wash your hands, and wait six feet apart.”
The new order removes the distinction between essential and non-essential businesses. Retail businesses are allowed to open at 50 percent capacity and will be required to direct customers to stand 6 feet apart, perform frequent cleanings, provide hand sanitizer when available, screen workers for symptoms and more.
The order allows people to leave their homes for commercial activity at any business that is open.
Certain businesses remain closed, including bars, personal care businesses, entertainment venues, and gyms. Restaurants may only continue to serve customers for drive-through, take-out and delivery.
All workers at retail and other businesses are recommended to wear cloth face coverings. Teleworking is still encouraged for businesses that can practice it.
Though small outdoor gatherings will be allowed in Phase 1, gatherings of more than 10 people generally are still prohibited. The Order encourages cloth face coverings to be worn when outside the home and in contact with others. Everyone who uses a face covering should adhere to this guidance without fear of profiling or bias.
During Phase 1, childcare facilities will be open to serve families of parents who are working or looking for work. These centers will be required to follow strict cleaning protocols. Summer day camps can operate in compliance with NC DHHS guidelines.
See the governor’s new executive order here.
Look for continuing coverage on local impacts from the coronavirus COVID-19 outbreak here and in the Tabor-Loris Tribune in print and online.