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‘Close contact’ businesses to reopen in a week in SC, where 1,800 contract tracers have been identified; COVID claims two more lives in Columbus, infections climb in CC, Horry, too


     Hair salons, barbers and other “close contact” businesses across South Carolina may begin reopening a week from today, Gov. Henry McMaster said Monday afternoon.

     His announcement followed the announcement that the Palmetto State has vastly increased its ability to perform contact tracing as testing for the COVID-19 coronavirus picks up.

     Locally two more Columbus County residents were reported killed by the disease on Monday, with seven more cases confirmed, and five newly confirmed cases in Horry County.

     This post will cover these topics and may be updated:

  • Close contact businesses will reopen in SC May 18
  • COVID claims two more in Columbus, seven new cases confirmed
  • Five more cases in Horry
  • More than 1,800 contact tracers identified in SC

Close contact businesses will reopen in SC May 18

     Close contact businesses across South Carolina, including hair salons, barbers, fitness and exercise centers, commercial gyms, public and commercial pools will be allowed to reopen, with limitations, next Monday, Gov. Henry McMaster announced Monday.

     “South Carolina did not shut down like some other states,” Gov. McMaster said in an afternoon news conference. “We did a slowdown. We hope to be at full speed as quickly as possible.”

     Just when all restrictions will be lifted remains unclear, McMaster said, and “ideally would have been in March.”

     McMaster said procedures to guide those businesses have been developed by his accelerateSC initiative, and are available at the accelerateSC and state Department of Health and Human Services websites.

     Those guidelines include, but are not limited to:

  • Guidance on social distancing within businesses, including recommended capacity requirements
  • Additional cleaning and sanitizing guidelines for equipment, tables, chairs, etc.
  • Additional guidance on health checks for employees
  • Additional guidance on training for employees

     “With our increased capacity for testing the people of our state, it is time to responsibly and gradually get these small businesses back up and running,” McMaster said. “We have an opportunity to set an example for the rest of the world by reinvigorating our economy while staying safe, but we can only do that if South Carolinians continue to follow the advice and recommendations of our public health experts.”

COVID claims two more in Columbus, seven new cases confirmed

     COVID-19 has claimed two more Columbus County residents, with seven additional people confirmed as testing positive for the coronavirus, the Columbus County Health Department reported Monday.

     New data for Horry County will be released later today. This story will be updated then.

     A total of 16 county residents have died of COVID-19 complications since the pandemic began, with the total of those confirmed infected reaching 213.

     “One of the individuals passed away while hospitalized and the other passed away at their place of residence,” a health department news release said. “The individuals were two of the previously identified positive cases in Columbus County.

     “To protect the families’ privacy, no further information about these individuals will be released. We offer our deepest condolences and sympathies to all of the individuals’ family and friends in this very difficult time.”

     Four of the newly confirmed cases “are connected to congregate living facilities in Columbus County and three of the new cases are connected to positive family members,” the news release said.

     Three additional infections were shown in the Tabor City Zip Code, the DHHS online dashboard showed Monday, two more in Chadbourn, one each in Clarendon and Lake Waccamaw. That data also showed Whiteville with two fewer cases, Fair Bluff with one less. That has typically taken place when health officials verifying residences determine that a person has been associated with a different location than his or her home.

     “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 15,045 confirmed COVID-19 cases in 99 North Carolina counties Monday, up by 281 from Sunday, the DHHS reported. There were 550 North Carolina deaths attributed to COVID-19 Monday, three more than Sunday; with 464 current hospitalizations, that number up by 22 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.

Five more cases in Horry

     Five 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 Sunday.

     With the latest report Horry County has recorded 267 people testing positive for the disease since the pandemic began and 18 deaths.

     Zip Code data shows 30 of those cases in the Loris Zip Code, one in the Green Sea area.

     Statewide there have been 7,792 positive tests returned for COVID-19 in South Carolina, up by 140 from Sunday; with 346 related deaths, that number up by 15 from Sunday.

More than 1,800 contact tracers identified in SC

     Contract tracing to combat the COVID-19 pandemic took a big step forward in South Carolina Monday with more than 1,800 tracers identified, South Carolina’s Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) announced Monday.

     “With increased testing there will be an increase in the number of positive cases reported,” said State Epidemiologist Dr. Linda Bell. “This means we will need to increase the extent of its contact tracing, and we are prepared to do so.”

     Contact tracing isn’t new to DHEC. During normal operations, the state agency has about 20 contact tracers who perform this methodology to help limit the spread of diseases like tuberculosis and hepatitis, a DHEC news release said.

     “Our infectious disease experts investigate hundreds of disease outbreaks each year,” the news release said. “As we enhance our testing efforts, DHEC set goal with our accelerateSC partners of identifying 1,000 contact tracers by May 31,” Bell said. “I’m proud to announce that we’ve met that goal.”

     As part of DHEC’s COVID-19 response efforts, the agency has increased its number of contact tracers from 20 to 400 staff members as of Monday. In addition, DHEC has retained another 1,400 contact tracers through contracts with two private staffing companies (Apple One and C-Trace), bringing the total number of available contact tracers to 1,800.

     Another 667 members of the public have also expressed interest in becoming a contact tracer through DHEC’s contact tracing webpage.


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