Restaurants, rivers reopening in SC; curfew, COVID restrictions expring in Columbus where free testing is on the way; Tabor Commons records its first deaths as infections climb in CC, Horry; McLeod relaxes some visitation policies

By DEUCE NIVEN

tribdeuce@tabor-loris.com

     Changes that may signal a begin to a return to normal are taking place across the area, with Palmetto State rivers reopening now, restaurants Monday.

     Meanwhile the COVID-19 pandemic continues to take a toll, case counts rising in Horry and Columbus counties, Tabor Commons Assisted Living recording its first two coronavirus deaths.

     Elsewhere, McLeod Health is relaxing visitation policies at McLeod Loris Seacoast and at physician offices, beginning Monday.

     This post will cover these topics and may be updated:

  • Restaurants, rivers reopening in SC
  • Curfew, other Columbus COVID restrictions expire at midnight
  • Free COVID testing coming to Columbus
  • Tabor Commons records first two deaths
  • Three more in Columbus infected
  • Horry case count climbs by nine, two in Loris area
  • Visitation policies change Monday at McLeod Loris Seacoast

Restaurants, rivers reopening in SC

     With social distancing and COVID-19 safety guidelines in place, South Carolina is reopening its waterways immediately, and allowing restaurants to resume serving customers inside at 50 percent capacity effective Monday, Gov. Henry McMaster said in a Friday afternoon news conference.

     Both changes, outlined in an Executive Order signed Friday that can be viewed here, are a result of the governor’s. accelerateSC initiative, he said.

     On the waters boats will be allowed to stop on riverbanks and islands, but law enforcement officers will retain the power to “arrest and charge anyone posing a threat to the public health and safety,” McMaster said.

     Social distancing remains essential, and required by previous executive orders, the governor said.

     Restaurants will be given detailed guidance on how they can open, with tables six to eight feet apart, no more than eight customers at the largest tables, and no re-usable containers such as salt and pepper shakers on the tables, everything designed for single-use, he said.

     Additional sanitizing guidelines will also be in place.

     While restaurants will be permitted to re-open, they will not be required to. Owners will have to make those decisions based on their own assessments and experience that guides them on the health and safety of their customers and staffs.

     “Follow the guidelines,” McMaster said. “Use common sense, and think about the danger still posed by the virus.

Curfew, other Columbus COVID restrictions expire at midnight

     A 10 p.m. through 5 a.m. curfew for Columbus County, motel and hotel closings, and other restrictions enacted on April 1 will expire at midnight tonight (Friday), Columbus County Commissioners Chairman Edwin Russ ordered today in an amendment to his March 24 “Declaration of State of Emergency.”

     His amended order maintains the county as in a “State of Emergency,” but removed a number of restrictions enacted on April 1.

     Those restrictions, expiring at midnight tonight, include.

  • That 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew for unincorporated areas in Columbus County.
  • Closing of “campground, hotels, motels, and short-term lodging” with exceptions for government or emergency needs; and the closings of extended stay hotels and campgrounds exceptions for renters already on premises no less than 28 days prior to the April 1 order.
  • Closing of all “public playgrounds, public playground equipment and exercise stations, public team sport facilities, public golf courses, and public gardens.”

     Two RV campgrounds, Yogi Bear’s at Daddy Joe’s and Carrollwoods RV Resort, both near Tabor City, were allowed to begin taking new visitors, with social distancing restrictions, on May 1 because they had received “essential business” designation by the NC Department of Revenue.

     Columbus County’s new order, which can be seen in full inside this story at tabor-loris.com, incorporates terms of Gov. Roy Cooper’s May 5 Executive Order, also effective at midnight tonight, which begins to ease restrictions enacted as part of North Carolina’s pandemic response.

Free COVID testing coming to Columbus

     Federally funded testing for the COVID-19 coronavirus is coming to Columbus County and other areas of North Carolina soon through a partnership with Walmart and Walgreens, state Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mandy Cowan said Friday.

     North Carolina has doubled its testing in recent weeks, ticking upwards from 2,500 to 3,000 tests completed each day just a few weeks ago to a sustained rate of 6,000 per day or more, Dr. Cowan said during a news conference in Raleigh.

     “We are on track, but I am not satisfied,” Dr. Cowan said. We need more testing, especially in underserved communities.”

     Testing capacity requires cotton swabs to obtain specimens from the nostrils of people, and chemical “transport media” in which those samples are transported from testing sites to labs for analysis, Dr. Cowan said.       Last week the state received 300,000 swabs and 234,000 vials of transport media, which will allow testing to increase, she said.

     Walgreens and Walmart have begun testing in Durham and Pitt counties, and will soon expand elsewhere in the state, including Columbus and several other southeastern North Carolina counties.

     “Tests at these sites are at no cost to those being tested,” Dr. Cowan said. Anyone showing COVID symptoms including cough, fever, chills, and other signs; and anyone who has been exposed to someone known to have been infected by the coronavirus, should get tested, Dr. Cowan said.

     Details on how to sign up for that testing in Columbus County will be provided as the date for it to begin nears. COVID-19 testing is already available at Columbus Regional Healthcare. For those details visit https://www.crhealthcare.org/news/columbus-regional-announces-opening-of-drive-through-covid-19-testing/.

Tabor Commons records first two deaths

     Although there were no new COVID-19 related deaths reported Friday in Columbus County, congregate care data released by the state’s Department of Health & Human Services showed Tabor Commons Assisted Living with two deaths since that data was updated Tuesday.

     Zip Code Data released by the DHHS Friday showed Tabor City with its first two deaths, apparently those from Tabor Commons. Columbus County Health Department reported two COVID deaths in the county on Thursday morning.

     Another eight people at Tabor Commons had tested positive for the coronavirus between Tuesday and Friday, the DHHS data showed, six residents and two members of the staff. With those additions 44 residents and four staff members at Tabor Commons have tested positive for the disease.

     Premier Living nursing home at Lake Waccamaw also saw an uptick in patients testing COVID-19 positive, up by eight from 16 Tuesday to 24 Friday, with seven staff members infected unchanged.

     At Liberty Commons in Whiteville one additional staff member was shown as infected, bringing that total to two. Twelve residents have tested positive, two have died, that number unchanged from Tuesday.

Three more in Columbus infected, two deaths at Tabor Commons

     Another three Columbus County residents have been confirmed as infected by COVID-19, the Columbus County Health Department reported Friday.

     With those confirmations the county has recorded 192 COVID cases since the pandemic began.

     “One of the new cases is connected to a congregate living facility in Columbus County,” the health department reported. “One case is connected to a previously identified positive case in Columbus County, and the source of infection could not be found for one of the cases.”

     Thirteen COVID-19 related deaths have been recorded in Columbus County, two who died Thursday. Apparently related, Zip Code data released by the NC Department of Health and Human Services Friday showed the first two deaths in the Tabor City, where a total of 56 cases have been confirmed.

     “With the number of COVID-19 cases and deaths continuing to rise in Columbus County, we are asking the public to take the necessary measures to stop the transmission of COVID-19,” the health department 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

     NC TOTALS: Statewide there are 13,868 confirmed COVID-19 cases in 99 North Carolina counties Friday, up by 471 from Thursday, the DHHS reported. There were 515 North Carolina deaths attributed to COVID-19 Thursday, eight more than Thursday; with 515 current hospitalizations, that number down by ten from the day before.

     CC Health Updates: 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.

Horry case count climbs by nine, two in Loris area

     Nine more people in Horry County have been confirmed with COVID-19, two in the Loris Zip Code, South Carolina’s Department of Health and Environmental Control reported Friday.

     With the latest report Horry County has recorded 251 people testing positive for the disease since the pandemic began and 18 deaths.

     Zip Code data shows 26 of those cases in the Loris Zip Code, one in the Green Sea area.

     Statewide there have been 7,367 positive tests returned for COVID-19 in South Carolina, up by 238 from Thursday; with 320 related deaths, that number up by four from Thursday.

Visitation policies change Monday at McLeod Loris Seacoast

     Somewhat less restrictive visitation policies are returning to McLeod Loris Seacoast and McLeod Physician Associates offices starting Monday, though more strict protocols involving masks are now in place.

     No visitor standards will remain in place at McLeod Regional Medical Center in Florence, McLeod Health Darlington, McLeod Health Cheraw and McLeod Health Clarendon until further notice, a McLeod Health news release said Friday.

     Masking protocols that took effect Thursday require “physicians, employees, visitors, and incoming patients arriving for care, testing or moving throughout the facility” to wear either a cloth or level 1 mask “while on a McLeod Health campus or in a physician office,” the news release said. “We recognize this is a departure from standard infection prevention; however, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, (CDC), has published guidelines recommending all persons wear cloth face coverings in public settings where social distancing cannot be achieved.

     “Our knowledge regarding COVID-19 is rapidly expanding and McLeod is incorporating the best evidence about issues like masking and viral transmission. Due to continually evolving evidence, we expect these policies will be further refined and revised in the weeks ahead.”

     Supportive care: Strict no-visitor polices at McLeod Loris, McLeod Seacoast, McLeod Dillon and McLeod Physician Associate offices will be eased effective Monday with exceptions to allow supportive care and to allow visitation for those at the end of life.

     Those exceptions and details  include:

  • Adult ER Patients, Inpatients or Patients undergoing Outpatient Procedures: ONE identified supportive care person will be permitted to visit at the bedside within a 24 hour period or the duration of the inpatient admission. (Alternating or switching of supportive care persons will not be permitted). Only one supportive care person will be allowed for the duration of the patient’s admission. The Nursing Supervisor will be responsible for any exceptions.
  • Process for identifying supportive care persons who have been granted inpatient visitation. A wristband/Visitor ID will be provided at each facility’s visitor entrance to the supportive care person designated by the patient to be granted visitation access. This supportive care person must keep the mask and wristband/visitor ID on at all times.
  • Hospital access for “non-admitted patients” scheduled for outpatient appointments/tests/procedures/ treatments may have: ONE supportive care person allowed to accompany the patient to their outpatient procedure/appointment and must be with the patient at time of entry.

     – Patient and supportive care person will be required to wear a mask.

     – Visitor will receive a Wristband/Visitor ID

     – Pediatric Patients and Patients in Labor: Only two parents, legal guardians or caregivers will be designated and permitted at the bedside with their child. For pregnant mothers, one  designated visitor will be permitted to enter the hospital or be at the mother’s bedside.

  • End of Life visitation: For patients at end of life, the attending physicians or Nursing Supervisors, at his or her discretion, can permit additional visitors (greater than two) to see the patient. All Visitors will follow the same ID and masking protocols.
  • Vendor and Other: Only vendors who are participating in patient care or hospital environmental maintenance will be allowed to enter McLeod facilities.

     Vendors allowed to enter McLeod facilities, as well as Law Enforcement, EMS and Transport Company personnel must be masked and wear Identification that reflect the nature of their business in the facility.

  • There will be NO supportive care persons/visitation for COVID-19 positive patients or COVID-19 rule-out patients under any circumstances.
  • For McLeod Physicians Associates Offices: ONE identified supportive care person will be permitted to attend with patient. The Physician Office Manager will be responsible for any exceptions. Patient and supportive care person will be required to wear a mask.

     Televisits: McLeod Health offers televisits with McLeod Physician Associates providers. During this visit, patients communicate by video with their provider using a smartphone, mobile device, or computer.

     Physician offices will schedule the appointment in advance, then will send a text message and email reminder with the link information to connect. At the scheduled time, patients and providers can discuss concerns, adjust or refill medications – many of the things performed during an in-office visit.

     Virtual care visits: McLeod’s Virtual Care Team is trained to help patients, visitors and loved ones stay connected by providing a service to use communications technologies (Smart Devices) to deliver virtual visitation.

     Virtual Care Team members have Smart Devices (I-Pads and Android Tablets) to be used to connect patients with family using Polycom and Telehealth Instant Visit. This team also assists with device charger needs and any technology issues the patient or family may be having.

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.