Columbus is in top tier of state COVID alert map; GSF basketball teams under quarantine

By DEUCE NIVEN

tribdeuce@tabor-loris.com

     North Carolina has a new map highlighting COVID-19’s spread in its 100 counties, with Columbus County in the top tier.

     Meanwhile, in Horry County, boys basketball teams at Green Sea Floyds High School are in quarantine after being in “close contact” with a person who has tested positive for the coronavirus.

     This post will cover these topics and may be updated:

  • COVID alert system has Columbus in the red
  • GSF basketball teams under quarantine

COVID alert system has Columbus in the red

     Columbus County is ranked as one of North Carolina’s top areas for COVID-19 community spread in a new COVID-19 County Alert System unveiled Tuesday.

     Gov. Roy Cooper and state Department of Health and Human Services Director Dr. Mandy Cohen described the new online reporting tool in a mid-afternoon news briefing.

     Both said the system is designed to “pinpoint counties with the highest levels of viral spread and offer specific recommendations to bring numbers down,” a news release said. “This system will help give local leaders another tool to understand how their county is faring and to make decisions about actions to slow viral spread. The map will be updated every four weeks.”

     Every county in the state, Dr. Cohen said, is currently experiencing significant community spread of COVID-19, with 43 classified with substantial community spread, 10 with critical spread.

     Columbus County is among the ten counties with critical community spread, color coded as red on the new DHHS map. Substantial spread counties are designated in orange, significant counties in yellow.

     “By pinpointing counties with high virus transmission and asking everyone in those counties to work with us and do more right now to slow the spread of the virus, we can succeed,” Gov. Cooper said. “It can help bring down their case rates, keep their communities safer, save lives and keep their hospital systems working.”

     “It’s going to take all of us working together to avoid tightening restrictions like so many states are now doing,” Dr. Cohen said. “The COVID-19 County Alert System gives North Carolinians an easy way to see how their county is doing and know what they can do protect their family and neighbors and slow the spread of this virus.”

     Prisons and small groups – Outbreaks at the two state prisons in Columbus County, by far the largest at Tabor Correctional Institution, helped propel Columbus County into the red category, county Health Director Kim Smith said Tuesday.

     But spread of the virus is on the rise even without the TCI outbreak, Smith said.

     “Without the prisons we would probably be in the orange,” Smith said, “knocking on the door of red. We’ve had a lot of families getting the virus.”

     Small gatherings have driven many of the new cases, she said, including family dinners, birthdays, funerals.

     “People need to realize that just because they are family does not mean they can’t spread the virus,” Smith said. “I’m sure they would never intentionally do anything to harm their family. But, if I go to a family gathering, and two days later I feel sick and have the virus, I was shedding the virus around that family.”

     Gov. Cooper and Dr. Cohen said the new system will help citizens recognize area hot spots in the state, and encourage them to be extra cautious with precautions everyone needs to remember.

     Smith said the map reinforces her message to Columbus County residents to be mindful of COVID-19.

     “We all need to work together to stop this virus,” Smith said. “Yes, there are two promising vaccines out there, but they are not ready yet.

     “All we have is to wear a mask, to social distance, and to wash your hands frequently. Right now, that is all we have.”

     Ratings – Because no one metric provides a complete picture, Dr. Cohen said, the COVID-19 County Alert System uses a combination of three metrics: case rate, the percent of tests that are positive, and hospital impact within the county.

     To be assigned to the red or orange tier, a county must meet the threshold for case rate for that tier AND the threshold for either percent positive OR hospital impact.

  • Case Rate: The number of new cases in 14 days per 100,000 people
  • Percent Positive: The percent of tests that are positive over 14 days
  • Hospital Impact: A composite score based on the impact that COVID-19 has had on hospitals including percent of COVID-19 hospitalizations, COVID-19 related visits to the Emergency Department, staffed open hospital beds, and critical staffing shortages over 14 days.

     View the state’s new COVID-19 County Alert System page here.

GSF basketball teams under quarantine

     Varsity and junior varsity members of Green Sea Floyds High School’s boys basketball teams are under quarantine after being in “close contact” to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19.

     Quarantines for the team members will last for 14 days, keeping with state and federal health guidelines, Horry County Schools spokeswoman Lisa Bourcier said Tuesday.

     The person with whom the team members had “close contact” will be in quarantine for a minimum of 10 days, Bourcier said, in keeping with state guidelines for a person with a positive COVID-19 test.

     Green Sea Floyds Middle and High School currently has one active student case, another active staff cases, the school district’s COVID-19 case dashboard showed Tuesday. Across the district there are currently 40 active student cases, 21 active staff cases.

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.