Vaccine timing, in-class learning, & COVID-19’s latest toll

By DEUCE NIVEN

tribdeuce@tabor-loris.com

     COVID-19 vaccines will be available for all, eventually, and finding your place in the vaccine line can now be found online.

     Meanwhile, some Horry County Schools students who have been splitting their time on campus should be back in the classroom full time on Feb. 8.

     That comes against a backdrop of stable but high coronavirus impacts in Columbus County, declining deaths and cases in Horry.

     This post will cover these topics and may be updated:

  • Find your place in the vaccine line
  • Back to class, full-time, for some in Horry
  • Post holiday COVID-surge in Columbus may be easing
  • Virus cases, deaths down sharply in Horry

Find your place in the vaccine line

     Unless you’ve had yours, the pace of COVID-19 vaccinations has been painstakingly slow, and won’t accelerate quickly enough for anyone.

     But vaccines are coming, both local and state health officials say, including NC Department of Health and Human Services Director Dr. Mandy Cohen Tuesday with praise for the frontline health care workers handling distribution.

     Those are the same people, Dr. Cohen said. who have been on the frontline of the coronavirus pandemic for nearly a year now.

     “They’ve borne a weight that would break many,” Dr. Cohen said.

     North Carolina has positioned itself well to receive more vaccines from the federal government, though just how much will be flowing down the pipeline from week to week remains an unknown.

     Appointments for vaccines will open again next week at the Columbus County Health Department, Director Kim Smith said.

     “We received 200 doses today,” Smith said Tuesday. “that’s this week’s allocation.”

     Columbus County has received the Moderna vaccine, which does not require the ultra-cold storage of the Pfizer vaccine. Those who receive the Moderna vaccine receive the second of two injections 28 days after the first.

     “We will give our first, second doses, tomorrow,” Smith said.

     In keeping with state guidelines, Columbus County has made sure to keep second dose supplies on hand, Smith said.

     Columbus is among the counties Dr. Cohen said has received limited supplies in recent days in order to step up mass vaccination centers in some of the state’s more populated areas. That allowed the state to use virtually all of its available vaccine by Tuesday, setting the stage for more than 810,000 doses set to arrive Wednesday.

     Some of those doses, Dr. Cohen said, will be distributed to areas that received less earlier, and to underserved minority populations.

     Achieving herd immunization for the county, Smith said, will require about 80 percent of the population receiving the vaccine. Early worries that too many would refuse the vaccine are easing, Smith said, perhaps because more people have personal connections to those seriously sickened or killed by the virus.

     Even with vaccinations underway, precautions against the virus remain critical, both Dr. Cohen and Smith said.

     “Until we get herd immunity, we need to follow the guidelines, wear your mask, stay six feet apart, wash your hands often,” Smith said.

     “Stay home,” Dr. Cohen said, repeating state guidelines in place under Gov. Roy Cooper’s executive orders. “Leave only for essential activities, and when you do wear a mask, all the time, stay six feet apart, wash your hands often.”

     Your turn: North Carolina is currently in Phase 2 of the COVID-19 vaccine program, offering shots for frontline healthcare workers and others older than 65.

     That age division changed as Columbus County had already scheduled appointments equal to the amount of vaccine available, so those 75 years and older are currently receiving vaccines in the county, Smith said.

     When will you be eligible for yours?

     NCDHHS has a new online tool designed to help North Carolinians know when they will be eligible to get the vaccine.

     Find My Vaccine Group walks users through a series of questions to determine which vaccine group they are in. People can then sign up to be notified when their group can get vaccinated.

     “Given the very limited supplies we currently have, there may be wait times, but every North Carolinian has a spot,” Dr. Cohen said. A spot for accurate information. A spot in line. A spot to take their shot.”

     Find your place in line here.

Back to class, full-time, for some in Horry

     It’s back to class, full time, for some students in the Horry County School District on Feb. 8.

     Horry County Board of Education members were advised of the plan for elementary grades only during Monday’s school board meeting. That plan could change if staff is not available. There are currently 68 COVID-19 staff cases in the district, 97 student cases, the school district dashboard indicated Tuesday evening.

     School district officials have been working towards returning students to school full time, spending more than $5 million for plexiglass dividers they say will help prevent the spread of the virus in classrooms.

     Students in middle and high schools will remain on a hybrid schedule, part time in the classroom, at other times at home through virtual learning.

     Students already approved for full-time virtual learning may remain in that program. Currently about 20 percent of the district’s students are enrolled in full-time virtual learning.

Post-holiday COVID-surge in Columbus may be easing

     A decline in COVID-19 associated deaths reported in Columbus County in the past week, and virtually no change in the number of newly confirmed cases may indicate the worst of a post-holiday season surge of coronavirus impacts is beginning to ease.

     Five Columbus residents succumbed to COVID-19 associated illness in the week ending Tuesday, less than half recorded the week before, the DHHS data showed.

     A death in the Delco Zip Code was the first of the pandemic there, with 10 new cases bringing its total to 151 since the virus appeared nearly a year ago.

     Two deaths were recorded in the Lake Waccamaw Zip Code, one in Whiteville, the location of the fifth not apparent in the DHHS data.

     Newly confirmed COVID-19 cases totaled 289 for the county for the week ending Tuesday, just a single infection more than for the previous week.

     Zip Code Data showed Whiteville with the bulk of the new cases, 96, followed by Tabor City with 60, Riegelwood with 37, Chadbourn with 30, Hallsboro with 21, Cerro Gordo with 18, Evergreen with 14, Bolton with 12 and the rest of the county’s Zip Codes with single digit increases for the week.

     Schools: COVID-19 infections reported by the Columbus County Schools in the past week included one staff member at South Columbus High and the district’s Central Office, two at Chadbourn Elementary, a student and a staff member at Cerro Gordo Elementary. The student infection at Cerro Gordo forced quarantine for one staff member, district spokesman Kelly Jones said.

     North Carolina reported 3,978 new COVID infections Tuesday and 56 associated deaths, bringing those pandemic totals to 727,423 and 8,776 respectively.

     Statewide 3,368 people were hospitalized due to the coronavirus Tuesday, that number up by 81 from Monday.

Virus cases, deaths down sharply in Horry

     Week to week COVID-19 numbers for Horry County, reported by the SC Department of Health and Environmental Control, were sharply improved during the past seven days.

     Horry recorded nine coronavirus associated deaths in the week ending Tuesday, 961 newly confirmed COVID cases, compared to 20 deaths and 1,521 confirmed cases during the preceding seven days.

     Eight of the nine deaths involved elderly Horry residents, one was middled aged, the DHEC data showed. An additional death involving an elderly resident was indicated in separate DHEC data, but it was not clear if that was accurate.

     Those deaths took included three on Jan. 18, one each on Jan. 12, 19, 20, 21, 23, and 24.

     Another seven deaths reported during the week were indicated as “probable” COVID-19 associated fatalities by DHEC.

     Of the 961 newly confirmed COVID-19 cases for Horry for the week ending Tuesday, 76 were reported from the Loris Zip Code, 7 from Green Sea.

     South Carolina has recorded 381,812 COVID cases during the pandemic, 5,944 deaths, those numbers up by 5,944 and 24 respectively since Monday.

     Statewide 2,173 people were hospitalized due to the coronavirus Tuesday, that number down by 28 since Monday.

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.