NC pauses Phase 3 reopening; Horry abandons mask mandate; COVID impacts continue

Gov. Roy Cooper extends Phase 3 of the state’s COVID-19 reopening Wednesday.

By DEUCE NIVEN

tribdeuce@tabor-loris.com

     North Carolina will remain in Phase 3 of its pandemic re-opening, Horry County is abandoning its mask mandate, as COVID-19 continues to have significant impacts locally and across the Carolinas.

     This post will cover these topics and may be updated:

  • Gov. Cooper extends Phase 3 reopening
  • Horry ends mask mandate, use “strongly encouraged”
  • Another COVID death for Horry
  • Columbus count up by 12

Gov. Cooper extends Phase 3 reopening

     North Carolina’s “dimmer switch” reopening of the economy, moved to Phase 3 on Oct. 2, will be paused there for at least another three weeks, Gov. Roy Cooper announced Wednesday.

     Initially set to expire this Friday, Phase 3 is extended until at least Nov. 13.

     Phase 3 allowed bars, movie theaters, small and large outdoor venues to re-open, but with strict capacity regulations designed to slow the spread of the coronavirus, the governor said.

     Local leaders across the state are being encouraged to step up enforcement of pandemic mandates, especially mask wearing in public places, both Gov. Cooper and state Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen said.

     “Our work to prevent the spread of this virus remains critical,” Gov. Cooper said.

     New information on clusters, now available on the state’s DHHS dashboard, shows outbreaks associated with small group gatherings, including family events, religious meetings or services, and elsewhere, both the governor and Dr. Cohen said.

     “This reinforces just how sinister the virus is in the way it spreads,” Gov. Cooper said.

     Data received by DHHS in recent weeks shows new COVID cases at rates rivaling, and on some days exceeding the peaks from last summer, Dr. Cohen said. Hospitalizations are up, she said, and the rate of COVID tests returning positive results “is too high.”

Horry ends mask mandate, use “strongly encouraged”

     Horry County’s emergency ordinance that included a mask mandate for residents and visitors will expire Oct. 30, with an Horry County Council vote that changes the requirement to an encouragement at least until then.

     Council debated the ordinance and mask requirement vigorously Tuesday, and ultimately voted 12-0 not to extend it. Council’s vote amended the language of the current ordinance, which now says masks are “strongly encouraged.”

     Unless council acts differently, later, that language ends with the Oct. 30 ordinance expiration.

Another COVID death for Horry

     Horry County is rapidly approaching 200 lives lost to COVID-19, its 198th death reported by the state’s Department of Health and Environmental Control Wednesday.

     Another 54 Horry residents have tested positive for the coronavirus, DHEC data showed Wednesday, bringing the pandemic total to 11,216.

     Three of those newly confirmed cases appear to be from the Green Sea area, Zip Code data from DHEC showed, bringing the pandemic total there to 60. Loris had no new added cases, the total 657.

     South Carolina has recorded 159,433 COVID cases during the pandemic, 3,487 deaths, those numbers up by 686 and 11 respectively since Tuesday.

     Statewide 743 people were hospitalized due to the coronavirus Wednesday.

Columbus count up by 12

     Columbus County’s daily rate of newly confirmed COVID-19 infections, averaging 10 in recent weeks, remained fairly steady with 12 newly cases showing on the NC Department of Health and Human Services online dashboard Wednesday.

     With no new deaths reported, the county’s pandemic totals were 1,603 cases and 59 deaths, DHHS data showed Wednesday. That data often lags behind that from the Columbus County Health Department, which issues coronavirus updates each Monday and Thursday, the first this week showing that the county had crossed the 1,600 mark in confirmed cases.

     Zip Code data from DHHS showed Whiteville with eight new COVID cases Wednesday, Tabor City and Chadbourn with one each. Those pandemic case/death totals are Tabor City, 317/18; Whiteville, 501/15; Chadbourn, 205/8.

     North Carolina recorded 1,842 new COVID infections Wednesday, and 40 related deaths, bringing those pandemic totals to 250,592 and 4,032 respectively. Statewide 1,219 people were hospitalized due to the coronavirus, that number up by 16 from Tuesday.

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.