COVID-19 deaths in Columbus, Horry as states act on restrictions

SC Department of Aging Director Connie Munn discusses nursing home visitation plans with Gov. Henry McMaster and a sign language interpreter at her side. (SCETV screenshot)

By DEUCE NIVEN

tribdeuce@tabor-loris.com

     Columbus County has recorded its 52nd death associated with COVID-19, Horry has three more, as governors of North and South Carolina have announced a relaxation of pandemic restrictions in both states.

     This post will cover these topics and may be updated:

  • 52nd COVID death reported for Columbus
  • Gyms, other openings in NC Phase 2.5 Friday
  • Horry records three more coronavirus deaths
  • Nursing home visitation rules set in SC

52nd COVID death reported for Columbus

     COVID-19 has claimed a 52nd life in Columbus County, apparently the 17th in the Tabor City Zip Code, data from North Carolina’s Department of Health and Human Services showed Tuesday.

     Columbus County Health Department pandemic information is released each Monday and Thursday, and its last news release did not show a new coronavirus related death.

     DHHS data by county and Zip Code is updated daily on its online dashboard, and on Tuesday showed the county with the new death and a pandemic total of 1,124 confirmed cases of the virus, 7 more than the 1,117 reported by the county Monday, and 22 higher than the 1,102 reported by DHHS a day earlier.

     Five of the new cases recorded by DHHS were in the Tabor City Zip Code, bringing that pandemic total to 262. Six new cases were recorded in the Whiteville area, three in Chadbourn, two in Nakina, and one each in Clarendon and Fair Bluff.

     North Carolina reported 2,111 new COVID infections and 39 related deaths Tuesday, the pandemic total now 169,424 and 2,741 respectively.

     Hospitalizations related to COVID-19 were up by 23 from Monday, the total now 946.

Gyms, other openings in NC Phase 2.5 Friday

     Gyms and playgrounds will be allowed to re-open as North Carolina enters phase 2.5 of its “dimmer switch” pandemic reopening at 5 p.m. Friday, bars, nightclubs, theaters and other indoor entertainment venues will not, Gov. Roy Cooper said Tuesday.

     Mask mandates and other disease prevention orders remain in place, and are more important in slowing the spread, the governor said.

     “Safer at Home Phase 2.5 continues our state’s dimmer switch approach to easing some restrictions,” said Governor Cooper. “We can do this safely only if we keep doing what we know works — wearing masks and social distancing. In fact, a new phase is exactly when we need to take this virus even more seriously.”

     Dr. Mandy Cohen, Secretary of the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services shared an update on North Carolina’s data trends. Dr. Cohen explained that North Carolina has seen stability in our key metrics.

     “As we take modest steps forward today, it’s important to remember that moving forward doesn’t mean letting up on slowing the spread of the virus. Our progress is fragile and we need to maintain focus on the 3Ws especially as we head into flu season,” Dr. Cohen said.

     Mass gathering limits will increase to 25 people indoors and 50 people outdoors from the current limit of 10 indoors and 25 outdoors, Gov. Cooper said.

     Playgrounds may open. Museums and aquariums may open at 50 percent capacity.

     Gyms and indoor exercise facilities, such as yoga studios, martial arts, and rock climbing, as well as skating rinks, bowling alleys, indoor basketball, volleyball etc., may open at 30 percent capacity.

     Bars, nightclubs, movie theaters, indoor entertainment facilities, amusement parks, dance halls will remain closed.

     Large venues remain subject to the mass gathering limits.

     In addition, NCDHHS Secretary Mandy Cohen issued a Secretarial Order allowing for outdoor visitation at nursing homes or skilled nursing facilities. To participate, nursing homes must meet several requirements, including, but not limited, not having a current outbreak, having a testing plan and updated written Infection Control or Preparedness plan for COVID-19, and having adequate personal protective equipment. Her order is effective at 5 p.m. Friday and remains in effect through Sept. 22.

Horry records three more coronavirus deaths

     Three more Horry County residents have died of COVID-19 complications, with 21 more infected by the coronavirus, South Carolina’s Department of Health and Environmental Control data showed Tuesday.

     All three of those who have most recently died were described as elderly. Horry County has lost 177 residents to the virus during the pandemic, with 9,308 confirmed infected, the DHEC data showed.

     None of the newly infected cases were from the Loris or Green Sea areas, Zip Code data showed, those pandemic totals at 549 and 37 respectively.

     Statewide South Carolina reported 761 new COVID cases and 37 new deaths Tuesday, the pandemic totals now 118,116 and 2,626 respectively.

     There were 894 COVID patients being treated in South Carolina hospitals Monday, that number down by 40 from Monday.

Nursing home visitation rules set in SC

     New guidelines for limited outdoor visitation at nursing homes and assisted living facilities across South Carolina were unveiled by state officials led by Gov. Henry McMaster Tuesday.

     Specifics on just when, or even if visitations will begin at specific facilities were unknown Tuesday, with much of the preparation and decision making in the hands of those facility leaders, state Public Health Director Dr. Joan Duwve said.

     Leadership at Wilson Senior Care’s five nursing homes, including Loris Nursing and Rehabilitation, are already evaluating the new guidelines “and devising a plan as to how these guidelines can be safely implemented,” Director of Communications Dianne Dennis said in a statement Tuesday.

     “Wilson Senior Care realizes that this has been a difficult time,” Dennis said. “We ask for the continued support of our families, volunteers and community. We encourage them to: contact the facility’s Social Service Director to set up a Skype and/or FaceTime visit with their loved ones, send an e-card on the company’s website, or schedule a window visit with their loved one conversing thru a special intercom system.”

     “We understand how difficult it has been during these past few months for friends and families to be distanced from their loved ones who reside in nursing homes and similar facilities, but we believe the visitation restrictions put in place have helped save lives and have helped protect the health and wellbeing of the dedicated workers who care for these residents,” said Marshall Taylor, Acting Director of DHEC.

     A facility’s ability to allow visitation depends on a number of factors, including but not limited to the following:

  • Existing cases of the virus within the facility
  • Facility’s staffing capabilities and PPE availability
  • Facility’s ability to comply with Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) testing requirements.

     “Our first priority when developing these guidelines was to protect both the physical and mental health of our loved ones who call nursing homes and assisted living facilities their home,” Dr. Duwve said. “As we are all too aware, these vulnerable individuals are among those at highest risk for developing life-threatening and life-taking complications from COVID-19.”

     Each nursing home and assisted living facility will need a reasonable amount of time in order to meet the criteria outlined in these guidelines, meaning outdoor visitation will not be immediately available, state officials said. South Carolinians are encouraged to coordinate directly with facilities to determine when visitation may be permitted and to coordinate visits when possible.

     There are currently 90 nursing homes in South Carolina that meet the state criteria of having no cases among staff or residents in the past 14 days.

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.