Columbus COVID surge gets state attention, Horry cases keep climbing

By DEUCE NIVEN

tribdeuce@tabor-loris.com

     Columbus County’s surge in COVID-19 cases, eclipsed only by Alexander County in North Carolina in the past two weeks, was addressed by state Department of Health and Human Services Director Dr. Mandy Cohen just before the Columbus County Health Department reported 191 newly confirmed coronavirus infections since Monday.

     Across the state line in Horry County another 223 COVID cases have been confirmed since Monday, state data shows.

     This post will cover these topics and may be updated:

  • Columbus COVID surge of 191 cases gets state attention
  • Horry records another 223 infections in three days

Columbus COVID surge of 191 cases gets state attention

     With 191 newly confirmed COVID-19 cases since Monday reported by the Columbus County Health Department on Thursday, the surge in coronavirus infections locally was addressed during a briefing by the state’s DHHS Director in Raleigh.

     “The virus is everywhere,” Dr. Cohen said during the livestreamed news briefing, her second this week. “It’s a little worse and moving a little faster in rural areas.”

     Not addressed by Dr. Cohen was the impact of a significant outbreak at Tabor Correctional Institution, with 80 newly confirmed cases since Monday, 222 cases currently identified as active, NC Department of Public Safety data posted Thursday showed.

     Active cases at TCI have risen by 57 since Monday, and by more than 150 this month, the DPS data shows. Nearly 200 TCI inmates have tested positive for COVID-19 in November, that data shows.

     Columbus County Health Director Kim Smith monitored the comments from Dr. Cohen.

     “There’s nothing we can do about that,” Smith said of the TCI’s impact on the county’s COVID numbers. “Those numbers go to Columbus County.”

     Smith said she spoke with TCI leadership earlier Thursday, offering support, additional personal protective equipment, of “anything they need.

     “They said they are aware of our offer, we’ve offered before, and they appreciate it,” Smith said. “Right now they said the state has given them everything they need.”

     Columbus County’s COVID numbers are concerning, Smith said, even without the TCI cases. Of the 191 confirmed infections since Monday, 93 were reported from the two state prisons in the county, the vast majority from TCI. That still leaves 98 newly confirmed cases outside of those prison walls.

     “We’ve had a lot of families with cases,” Smith said. “Halloween was just two weeks ago. I think that’s what we’re seeing now. Whether it was a haunted house, a haunted hay ride, a church group gathering, we’re along with the rest of the country seeing an increase.”

     Smith said the rapid rise in cases is as concerning as the initial outbreak in the county in the spring, when Columbus quickly outpaced surrounding counties in numbers of COVID infections and deaths.

     A single new death reported by the county health department Thursday, bringing the pandemic total to 67, was the same TCI inmate whose passing was disclosed by DPS officials on Tuesday, Smith said.

     Sadly, she said, that death won’t be the last for the county, with the pandemic far from over.

     Smith echoed Dr. Cohen’s often repeated phrase for combatting the spread of COVID-19.

     “It’s just like Dr. Cohen said, get behind the mask,” Smith said. “All we have is this mask, social distancing, and washing our hands.”

     Both Smith and Dr. Cohen on Thursday said they hope the country, and North Carolina, can avoid a lockdown similar to that in the spring.

     “At this point in the pandemic asking folks to make that kind of a sacrifice is going to be challenging,” Dr. Cohen said.

     “I do think we need to take a couple of steps back,” Smith said, a reference to the multi-tiered re-opening of the economy currently paused as phase 3 by executive order of Gov. Roy Cooper.

     Columbus numbers: With the newly confirmed COVID cases reported Thursday Columbus County’s pandemic total stands at 2,184, the health department reported. Double-digit new cases were recorded for the past three days, including 22 additional cases that followed Monday’s health department report, 46 Tuesday, 82 on Wednesday, and 41 today (Thursday).

     “There are currently ten Columbus County residents that are hospitalized due to COVID-19,” the county update said. “There have been 1,616 COVID-19 recoveries in Columbus County. There are approximately 501 active COVID-19 cases in Columbus County.”

     Zip Code data, posted daily by DHHS and typically lagging county health department information, showed 69 newly confirmed cases for the Tabor City area Tuesday, most of those likely at TCI. Elsewhere Whiteville showed seven newly confirmed cases, Clarendon three, Fair Bluff one.

     Pandemic case/death totals as shown by DHHS Thursday were Tabor City, 606/20; Whiteville, 589/16; Clarendon 76/2; and Fair Bluff, 55/4.

     North Carolina recorded 2,893 new COVID infections Thursday, and 8 associated deaths, bringing those pandemic totals to 303,454 and 4,706 respectively. Statewide 1,278 people were hospitalized due to the coronavirus, that number up by 33 from Wednesday.

Horry records another 223 infections in three days

     Another 223 Horry County residents have tested positive for COVID-19 since Monday, bringing the pandemic total to 12,270, SC Department of Health and Environmental Control data showed Thursday.

     There were no new deaths indicated, the pandemic total for the county at 214.

     Zip Code data showed 16 of the cases reported since Monday from the Loris area, another 3 in Green Sea, those pandemic totals now 710 and 64.

     South Carolina has recorded 179,832 COVID cases during the pandemic, 3,817 deaths, those numbers up by 1,243 and 8 respectively since Wednesday.

     Statewide 810 people were hospitalized due to the coronavirus Thursday, that number up by 30 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.