Horry schools remain hybrid despite growing COVID cases; ‘Wrong direction’ described in NC

NC DHHS Secretary, with a sign language interpreter, discusses COVID-19 trends during a news briefing Thursday. (UNC-TV screenshot)

By DEUCE NIVEN

tribdeuce@tabor-loris.com

     Horry County’s COVID-19 spread has been rated “high” for the second week in a row, and though its pandemic plan for the current school year calls for a return to all virtual learning, that’s not happening, at least for now.

     Meanwhile, coronavirus cases are climbing locally, surging in some areas, prompting a warning from North Carolina’s top healthcare official.

This post will cover these topics and may be updated:

  • Despite higher data, Horry Schools remain hybrid
  • Columbus reports 34 new COVID cases
  • Coronavirus case rise averaging nearly 80/day in Horry
  • Dr. Cohen: ‘We are moving in the wrong direction’

Despite higher data, Horry Schools remain hybrid

     There will be no return to all-virtual learning for the Horry County School District, despite a second week in a row of “high” disease activity in the county as reported by South Carolina’s Department of Health and Environmental Control.

     School district leaders announced the decision on a Facebook post Thursday afternoon, reporting DHEC’s latest Disease Activity by County report.

     “However, due to the low number of COVID-19 incidents directly affecting Horry County Schools, the District will continue to operate under the hybrid instructional model for the week of October 19, 2020,” the post said. “On Monday evening, Dr. Maxey will share additional information with the Board of Education regarding the status of District mitigation efforts as well as modifications to the decision protocol for brick-and-mortar schools.”

     Protocols in the district’s current pandemic plan call for the current hybrid learning model when the county is classified at “medium spread,” with a shirt to all virtual learning at the higher spread level.

     School openings were delayed until Sept. 8 as that plan was developed. A total of 128 school district students and staff have tested positive for COVID-19 since the school year began. That includes seven students and nine staff members in the past week, the district has reported.

Columbus reports 34 new COVID cases

     Another 34 Columbus County residents have tested positive for COVID-19, bringing the pandemic total to 1,563, the Columbus County Health Department reported in the last of two pandemic updates Thursday.

     There were no new COVID associated deaths in the latest update, the pandemic total is 59.

     New confirmed COVID cases included two recorded after Monday’s update, seventeen Tuesday, thirteen Wednesday, and two today (Thursday).

     “There are currently ten Columbus County residents that are hospitalized due to COVID-19,” the health department reported. “There have been 1,276 COVID-19 recoveries in Columbus County.”

     Zip Code data, released daily by the NC Department of Health and Human Services, showed the Tabor City area with five new cases since Tuesday, Clarendon with three, Nakina with two, Cerro Gordo with one, and Whiteville with four.

     Pandemic total cases/deaths for those zip codes is: Tabor City, 308/18; Clarendon, 60/2; Nakina, 54/2; Cerro Gordo, 42/1; and Whiteville, 478/15.

     North Carolina recorded 2,532 new COVID infections Thursday, its highest one-day total of the pandemic, and 18 related deaths, bringing those pandemic totals to 238,939 and 3,874 respectively. Statewide 1,140 people were hospitalized due to the coronavirus, that number down by 12 from Wednesday.

Coronavirus case rise averaging nearly 80/day in Horry

     Maintaining its state designation as a county with “high” COVID-19 activity, Horry County has averaged nearly 80 newly confirmed cases for nearly a week, exactly that number recorded Thursday, data from South Carolina’s Department of Health and Environmental Control shows.

     That data showed 79 newly confirmed cases Tuesday, 76 on Wednesday, and 80 today. The highest daily total in the past week was Friday, at 122.

     Zip Code data showed the Loris area with two newly confirmed cases since Tuesday, Green Sea unchanged. Pandemic totals are 632 COVID cases for Loris, 57 for Green Sea, and an Horry County total of 10,866 confirmed cases, the DHEC data showed Thursday.

     South Carolina has recorded 154,859 COVID cases during the pandemic, 3,400 deaths, those numbers up by 1,300 and 13 respectively since Wednesday.

     Statewide 762 people were hospitalized due to the coronavirus Thursday, that number down by 30 from Wednesday.

Dr. Cohen: ‘We are moving in the wrong direction’

     With its highest one-day total of newly confirmed COVID-19 cases of the entire pandemic, North Carolina is “moving in the wrong direction,” state Department of Health and Human Services Director Dr. Mandy Cohen said Thursday.

     Dr. Cohen joined Gov. Roy Cooper in a mid-afternoon news briefing, both pleading with citizens across the state to take “proven steps” to slow the spread of the coronavirus: wearing a face covering, staying six feet apart, and washing hands frequently.

     “We have the tools to slow the spread and protection one another,” Dr. Cohen said. “The science is clear on masks. They work. They slow the spread. Whatever your reason, I am asking you to get behind the mask.”

     Concerning, Dr. Cohen said, is that COVID cases are rising sharply in North Carolina according to several tracking metrics, including the numbers of patients with “COVID-like illness, confirmed cases, the percentage of tests returned with positive results, and hospitalizations.

     None of that data has reached a critical mass, Dr. Cohen said, and both she and the governor said there is time for North Carolinians to turn the tide and move the state towards the goals of fully reopening the economy and fully opening schools.

     “I know we’re all tired of this,” Gov. Cooper said. “It’s frustrating to feel confined and do the things we need to do. We cannot let wariness and frustration win out.

     “We’ve brought numbers down before, and we need to do it again. We will succeed if we do this together.”

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.