School opening delayed in Horry; on track in CC following governor’s announcement; area COVID deaths and case details

Education leaders held a webinar on the upcoming school year in Columbus County Tuesday, hosted by the Columbus County Chamber of Commerce and Tourism. (Zoom screenshot)

By DEUCE NIVEN

tribdeuce@tabor-loris.com

     Health and education go hand-in-hand, school leaders in the Carolinas are saying during the COVID-19 pandemic, with different takes on how that may look in Columbus and Horry counties.

     Coronavirus is looking different in those counties, too, state health data continues to show.

     This post will cover these topics and may be updated:

  • Governor sets the stage, CC schools prep for 3-prong reopening
  • Horry Schools delay opening
  • Two coronavirus deaths, 150 new infections in Horry
  • State shows Columbus with one-day 23 case COVID jump

Governor sets the stage, CC schools prep for 3-prong reopening

     Columbus County Schools will be making some adjustments in the wake of North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper’s announcements Tuesday on reopening schools across the state next month.

     Gov. Cooper also extended the pause on Phase 2 of the state’s pandemic re-opening, due to expire Friday, for three weeks. It’s new expiration is Aug. 7.

     Cooper’s school reopening directive will allow a key component of tentative plans made by the Columbus County Schools, Supt. Dr. Deanne Meadows said in a statement that followed the government’s announcement.

     “Parents may choose for their students to be 100 percent virtual,” Meadows said of the option that will allow students to stay away from campus this school year. “We will share all safety procedures soon so parents can make this decision.”

Gov. Roy Cooper presents school reopening plans for North Carolina Tuesday.

     Gov. Cooper said the goal is to have students in school buildings as soon as possible, while recognizing differences among families and school districts that may make that more difficult in different locations.

     Dr. Meadows offered two other summary points guiding the district in reopening classes beginning in August:

  • “K-3 will begin the school year on campus for the first month of school through September 11th. Students will be socially distanced, expected to wear face coverings, and we will continue to implement stringent safety and sanitation guidelines.
  • “We are planning on grades 4-12 beginning the school year virtually and returning to school on a staggered basis beginning on September 14. With the guidance today, we may be able to get more grades on campus. We will know after completing additional studies and if it is feasible; we will add 4th grade and then 5th grade if possible.”

     Getting students in grades K-3 on campus is “our first priority,” Meadows said.

     “There are many reasons for this, but the importance of teacher interaction with students in this age group is a primary concern,” Meadows said. “We fear without taking this step these students could fall behind at a crucial point in their development, especially in their reading skills.

     “In order to bring K-3 students back on campus and also meet the social distancing guidelines set forth by the state, we have planned to use additional schools and school spaces. Limitations for social distancing also require a lower teacher to student ratio which limits the number of students who can attend even if we used all the school spaces that exist.

     “We are also very limited on the amount of students we could carry on a bus, so transporting students will require buses from our middle and high schools to be used to transport the students in the lower grades.”

     Athletics is still unclear for the new school year, Dr. Meadows said in an online webinar sponsored by the Columbus County Chamber of Commerce and Tourism Tuesday.

     Under current guidelines, large gatherings and field trips are not allowed, but guidance from the North Carolina High School Athletic Association is expected soon.

     Additional studies will be required, following the governor’s announcement, to determine if any current plans can be modified, Meadows said.

     For the full text of Gov. Cooper’s news release announcing state guidance on school openings click here.

Horry Schools delay opening

     Public school opening for the Horry County School District has been moved to Sept. 8, a delay forced by a rising COVID-19 infection rate locally and other pandemic concerns.

     Meeting in an on-line virtual session that was delayed by 45-minutes due to a thunder storm, the 11-member board approved the school calendar recommendation from Supt. Dr. Rick Maxey.

     That vote came after presentations from sub-committees involved in planning for the new school year that included parents, students, educators, business and community leaders.

     Opening plans: A formal plan for re-opening is not yet complete, District 6 board member Helen Smith said.

     “We don’t have a plan,” Smith said. “Other parts of the state have plans.”

     A plan prepared by the county’s AccelerateEd Task Force should be ready to send to the state Board of Education for its approval by this Friday, Maxey said.

     Parents will be notified of the districts’ plan once state approval is granted.

     See much more on this story in Wednesday’s Tabor-Loris Tribune in print and online. – Jenn Causey

 Two COVID deaths, 150 new infections in Horry

     Two more Horry County residents have died of COVID-19 complications, with 150 more newly testing positive for the coronavirus, data from South Carolina’s Department of Health and Environmental Control showed Tuesday.

     Both of those who died were described as elderly in a DHEC news release.

     Nine of those newly testing positive for the disease reside in the Loris Zip Code, another in the Green Sea area, the DHEC data showed. That brings to 347 the number of infected Loris area residents during the pandemic, 29 those in Green Sea.

     In Horry County, the pandemic total topped 6,000 Tuesday, with 6,053 reported as testing positive for the coronavirus, 150 more than the 5,903 reported Monday.

     South Carolina recorded 2,205 newly confirmed COVID cases Tuesday, 23 more deaths, bringing the pandemic totals now 60,220 and 984 respectively. It was the largest one-day COVID confirmation count of the pandemic for the state.

     COVID related hospitalizations rose again in South Carolina Tuesday, 1,550 people in the hospital due to the coronavirus, 62 more than Monday.

State shows Columbus with one-day 23 case COVID jump

     Just a day after the Columbus County Health Department reported a four-day jump of 25 newly confirmed COVID-19 cases locally, state health officials on Tuesday recorded a 23-case increase in a single day.

     Data on the NC Department of Health and Human Services dashboard showed Columbus County with 646 COVID cases Tuesday. It reported 623 cases Monday, higher than the 617 total the county health department reported the same day.

     There was no clear explanation for the discrepancy.

     Zip Code data on the DHHS dashboard showed the Tabor City area with 19 of the newly confirmed COVID cases, that total now 164; with Hallsboro and Lake Waccamaw each showing two new cases for totals of 61 and 39 respectively.

     Single case increases were reported in several areas. Those areas, and their new pandemic totals shown by DHHS, include: Nakina, 9; Whiteville, 175; Bolton, 24; and Riegelwood, 32.

     There were no new COVID related deaths reported for Columbus County by DHHS Tuesday. That pandemic total of 39 has held for more than two weeks.

     North Carolina reported 1,956 new COVID infections and 42 new related deaths, the DHHS dashboard showed Tuesday. That brings the state’s pandemic total to 89,484 people infected with the coronavirus, 1,552 killed.

     Hospitalizations rose 69 Tuesday, the DHHS data showed, to 1,109.

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.