As COVID case counts climb locally, NC governor says face covering order could come next week, SC health leader urges compliance

Reporter Jenn Causey seems calm as the first part of a long swab is inserted into her nose during a COVID-19 test. See her account below.

By DEUCE NIVEN

tribdeuce@tabor-loris.com

     COVID-19 case counts continue to rise rapidly in Horry County, at a slower pace in Columbus.

     Meanwhile, serious consideration is being given to a statewide order requiring the wearing of face coverings in public in North Carolina as a health leader in South Carolina offered a plea for masks to be widely worn there.

     This post will cover these topics and may be updated:

  • NC considers mandatory face mask, SC pleads for compliance
  • ‘Extremely uncomfortable’ COVID test takes seconds
  • COVID total hits 452 in Columbus
  • Horry case count at 1,560

NC considers mandatory face mask, SC pleads for compliance

     Wearing a face mask or face covering, combined with following social distancing and hand washing guidelines, are “strong, proven methods to slow the spread” of COVID-19, NC Gov. Roy Cooper said Thursday, adding that uneven voluntary compliance of face covering recommendations could give way to an order for them next week.

     Those comments came another 1,333 confirmed cases of the coronavirus, seven new deaths and a continued trend of more people in the hospital because of the disease was reported by the state’s Department of Health & Human Resources.

     In South Carolina, meanwhile, State Epidemiologist Dr. Linda Bell issued a plea for residents there to take public health precautions as concern over rising COVID-19 data trends raise concerns.

     (See more on data from the Carolinas in the stories below.)

     There are numerous methods that might be used to require face masks in public, some dependent on the settings such as retail outlets or public buildings, the governor said. What’s important, he said, is crafting an order that best achieves the goal of getting people to wear masks and slowing the spread of the potentially deadly disease.

     Gov. Cooper called wearing a face covering is a “low cost, low tech” way to people and the economy.

     “It’s not the most comfortable thing,” Cooper said. “It’s a piece of protection, like gloves or a sun hat, an extra thing that keeps you healthy. It may save your life or those of loved ones.”

     The goal, the governor said, is for people to get so used to wearing a face covering that it becomes second nature. “Everyone can do it.”

     Dr. Bell’s plea was very similar.

     “Every one of us has a role to play in stopping COVID-19,” Dr. Bell said. “This virus does not spread on its own. It’s spread around our state by infected people who carry it wherever they go – their work, the supermarket, the post office, a friend’s house. By not following public health precautions, many are putting all at risk.

     “It is essential that each of us, every day, wear a mask in public and stay physically distanced from others.

     “We understand that what we’re continuing to ask of everyone is not easy and that many are tired of hearing the same warnings and of taking the same daily precautions, but this virus does not take a day off. Every day that we don’t all do our part, we are extending the duration of illnesses, missed work, hospitalizations and deaths in our state.

     “There is no vaccine for COVID-19. There are only individual behaviors and actions we must all maintain that help stop its spread.

     “Healthy people may feel they are resistant to the virus, may feel that even if they contract it, they’ll have mild symptoms and feel better in a few days. This may be true for some – but it’s also true that we are seeing hospitalizations and deaths in those who were previously healthy and in almost every age group.

     “Historically, South Carolinians have willingly made sacrifices for the benefit of all. Stopping the spread of this disease will not be easy. However, I am confident in our willingness to take the current actions necessary of wearing face masks and social distancing in order to care for each other. Together we can meet this challenge.”

‘Extremely uncomfortable’ COVID test takes seconds

     I wanted to understand the process of a COVID-19 test, so I felt it was important to be tested.

     I was, today (Thursday).

     McLeod Health Loris working with South Carolina’s Department of Health and Environmental Control offered free testing for the community, hosting the outdoor event in the Center for Health & Fitness parking lot across the street from the hospital.

     Testing, scheduled to begin at 10 a.m., started around 9 a.m. due to the long line that had formed at 7:30 a.m.

     After filling out short form with name, phone number, address, gender and last four digits of my Social Security number, I was sent to the station that was testing people who were not inside their vehicles.

     My head was tilted back 70 degrees, then a six inch swab was inserted into both nostrils, moving the swab up and around for 15 seconds. The swab was removed while rotating it. The tip of the swab was placed into sterile viral transport media tube to be sent to lab for testing.

     The process was extremely uncomfortable for several seconds, making my eyes tear. Results should be back in a few days and delivered to me via phone call.

     Although not a pleasant experience, I felt it was important to be tested like the others who were waiting in line.

     Loris resident Adrian Hazelton called the test “strange.”

     “The test was pretty good, but was strange having something go so far up your nose,” Hazelton said.

     Some 310 people were expected to be tested Thursday, Jennifer Beverly of McLeod Health said. There may be another testing event in the near future. – Jenn Causey

COVID total hits 452 in Columbus

     With 22 Columbus County residents newly confirmed infected with COVID-19 between late Sunday and today (Thursday), there have been 452 men, women and children confirmed with the coronavirus in the ongoing pandemic to date, the Columbus County Health Department reported.

     “There was one additional cases to report for June 15, seven new cases of COVID-19 on June 16, twelve new cases on June 17, and two new cases on June 18,” a health department news release said. “There are currently thirteen Columbus County residents that are hospitalized due to COVID-19.”

     COVID-19 has claimed the lives of 33 Columbus residents, while 264 people have completely recovered from their infections, the health department reported.

     County reports on the pandemic’s impact are currently being given twice each week, on Monday and Thursday. State Department of Health and Human Resources data is updated daily, but often lags behind the county’s information. For instance, while the county confirmed 452 total COVID cases Thursday, the DHHS dashboard showed 446.

     Zip Code: DHHS is broken down by Zip Code, information the county health department has not provided. It is sometimes confusing. For instance, earlier this week that Zip Code data showed the case county for the Hallsboro area jump from 17 to 29 in one day, with no clear explanation on if this was accurate or a data error three days after an inquiry was made to the state agency. Hallsboro shows 30 confirmed cases today on the DHHS dashboard.

     Tabor City showed three new cases in the Zip Code listing Thursday, that total now 103. Nakina and Chadbourn each added a case, those totals now 7 and 75 respectively; while Whiteville’s total was up by 9, to 133.

     Statewide: North Carolina has recorded 48,188 confirmed COVID cases since the pandemic began, Thursday’s DHHS data showed, that total up by 1,333 from Wednesday; with 1,175 deaths, seven more than Wednesday; and 857 COVID patients in the hospital, an increase of 11 from the previous day.

     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 at 1,560

     Confirmed coronavirus cases swept past the 1,500 mark with data released Thursday by South Carolina’s Department of Health and Environmental Control, the new total now 1,560, an increase of 143 from the 1,417 cases reported Wednesday.

     DHEC, however, showed the county with 128 newly confirmed cases. A reason for the discrepancy was not clear, though the trend of a rapid rise in COVID-19 cases in the county was.

     COVID-19 has taken the lives of 35 Horry residents.

     Zip Code data from DHEC showed two more people in the Loris Zip Code testing positive for the disease, the total now 173 since the pandemic began. Green Sea’s total case count of 12 was unchanged Thursday.

     Statewide South Carolina has recorded 21,533 COVID confirmed cases since the pandemic began, DHEC reported Thursday, an increase of 982 from Wednesday, with 621 people across the state who have died of the disease, four more than Wednesday.

     A total of 626 Palmetto State residents were reported hospitalized for coronavirus complications Thursday, an increase from 19 from Wednesday.

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.