Vaccine clinics in CC, Horry; NC leaders say get kids back to school; counties report higher COVID deaths

NC Supt. of Public Instruction Catherine Truitt speaks during Tuesday’s news briefing in Raleigh. (UNC-TV screenshot)

By DEUCE NIVEN

tribdeuce@tabor-loris.com

     Some sort of normal is coming, state and national leaders say of the COVID-19 pandemic, though no one is sure how quickly.

     Public vaccination clinics are coming to Columbus and Horry counties, while North Carolina leaders say it’s time to get kids back in conventional classrooms.

     Meanwhile, coronavirus associated deaths in both Horry and Columbus counties were up significantly for the week ending Tuesday, newly confirmed cases down slightly.

     This post will cover these topics and may be updated:

  • Make CRHS vaccine appointments quickly Wednesday
  • Public vaccination event at NMBHS Saturday
  • Governor: Time for kids to be in school
  • Horry: 40 virus deaths, 833 new cases in a week
  • Ten COVID deaths in CC in a week, 276 cases

Make CRHS vaccine appointments quickly Wednesday

     Appointments for a COVID-19 Vaccination Clinic for people 65 and older at Columbus Reginal Healthcare will be accepted tomorrow (Wednesday) only, the Whiteville based healthcare system announced Tuesday.

     With a limited amount of vaccine available, appointments are expected to fill quickly, and the hotline will change to a recorded message saying appointments for this round have been filled.

     Call the appointment hotline only, not the hospital’s main number or emergency department. Neither can help with vaccine appointments.

     That hotline number is 910-642-1554, and opens at 9 a.m. Wednesday. Appointments will be taken through 5 p.m., or until all appointments are filled.

     When more doses are received from the state supply, new appointments will be made available and the hotline re-opened. Updates on appointments will be announced at crhealthcare.org and on the Columbus Regional Healthcare Facebook page.

     “We look forward to helping vaccinate our community and bringing us all one step closer to ending the COVID-19 pandemic,” the CRHS announcement said.

Public vaccination event at NMBHS Saturday

     A first-come, first-served walk-in COVID-19 vaccination event will be held at North Myrtle Beach High School this Saturday, members of Loris City Council were told Monday.

     Mayor Todd Harrelson provided a healthcare update provided by McLeod Loris Administrator Scott Montgomery. McLeod Health later Tuesday published details of the event online.

     Scheduled from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., in the school gym, 3750 Sea Mountain Hwy in Little River, the clinic is geared for people 70 years and older, with or without underlying health conditions, in accordance with the state’s COVID-19 vaccine distribution plan, which is currently in Phase 1A.

     Only 1,000 vaccines will be available at Saturday’s event, Harrelson said.

     Vouchers will be distributed on site at the school’s Entrance 1 beginning at 8:30 a.m. People with valid identification and proof that they are in 1A status will receive the vouchers, and must remain in their vehicles to receive the documents.

     Others in Phase 1A of the state’s plan include healthcare workers, long term care facility residents and staff, admitted hospital patients 65 and older, COVID-19 vaccine/testing mission-critical state and local government employees. A more detailed list may be found at scdhec.gov/vaxfacts.

     Phase 1B in the state’s vaccination plan is expected to begin in early spring, Phase 1C in late spring, and Phase 2, for all people, this summer and fall, the state’s Department of Health and Environmental Control projects.

Governor: Time for kids to be in school

     “It’s time to get our children back into the classroom,” Gov. Roy Cooper said during a news briefing with North Carolina education and public health leaders in Raleigh Tuesday.

     Little was known about COVID-19 and the risk it presented in the public schools nearly a year ago, prompting the state to shut down the public schools last March. Science and research has made evident much that was unknown then, and prompted the state to encourage local education leaders to get children in the classrooms as fully as they seem safe.

     Columbus County Schools, currently operating on a hybrid schedule with one exception, seems to fall within the guidelines recommended by Cooper at state Dept. of Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen.

     “Protecting the health and safety of the people of this state, especially our children and our teachers, has been our goal,” Gov. Cooper said. “We know school is important for reasons beyond academic instruction. School is where students learn social skills, get reliable meals, and find their voices.

     “Research done right here in North Carolina tells us that in-person learning is working and that students can be in classrooms safely with the right safety protocols in place.”

     Dr. Cohen reinforced those comments.

     “Even with the thousands of students and teachers attending school in-person across the state, we have seen few COVID-19 clusters in our public schools,” said Dr. Cohen said. “Our Department will continue to serve our school communities, offering resources and support so we can keep our school doors open.”

     State education leaders endorsed the recommendations, while the North Carolina Association of Educators, representing teachers, sounded a note of caution later in the day.

     “Learning loss resulting from COVID has the potential to be a generational hurdle, but the data we have seen shows us that schools can reopen safely if they adhere to COVID prevention policies,” said Superintendent of Public Instruction Catherine Truitt. “For many schools, the logistics of returning to in-person instruction five days per week will be a challenge, but this is absolutely a challenge we must face head on so that all students have a chance to fulfill their potential.

     “With strong prevention measures in place, and the scientific research to back them, now is the time to act. North Carolina’s students cannot lose any more time.”

     “We, as NCAE, have said since the start of this pandemic that educators are eager to return to in-person instruction when it can be done safely,” said NCAE President Tamika Walker Kelly. “However, without the widespread vaccination of educators and strictly enforced social distancing, it is impossible for many schools to open safely, and for the schools that have been open, they need help.

     “If Gov. Cooper feels so strongly about resuming in-person instruction quickly, then he should support educators and immediately bring the full weight of his office to bear to get all educators vaccinated by the end of this month, just as 25 other states have been able to do. In the meantime, we encourage local school boards to continue to make decisions that protect students and educators based on local conditions. Particularly in light of the emerging and increasingly virulent strains of COVID, it is more critical than ever to have a flexible approach that can be adapted to whatever situation next emerges.”

Horry: 40 virus deaths, 833 new cases in a week

     COVID-19 associated deaths in Horry County were up sharply for the week ending Tuesday, the number of newly confirmed coronavirus cases down slightly, data from South Carolina’s Department of Health and Environmental Control showed.

     A data gathering error corrected in data revealed Thursday accounted for nearly half of the 40 COVID associated deaths documented during the past week. But even discounting the 21 deaths added to the DHEC dashboard Thursday, Horry’s death toll was nearly twice the 9 reported for the previous seven days.

     There was another day with a high number of COVID deaths reported, on Monday, when the count rose by 16 from Sunday. Two additional deaths recorded Tuesday brought the pandemic total to 358 deaths confirmed as associated with COVID-19.

     Six of those Horry residents claimed by the virus were identified as middle aged, the rest elderly, the DHEC data showed.

     Those deaths took place on Jan. 5, 6, 8, 10, 11, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 28, and 30, and in some cases involved two or three individuals on the same date.

     Another 833 Horry residents tested positive for COVID-19 during the week ending Tuesday, that down from 961 the previous week. Zip Code data showed 43 of those new cases from the Loris area, 5 from Green Sea, bringing pandemic totals to 23,998 for the county, 1,524 for Loris, 197 for Green Sea.

Ten COVID deaths in CC in a week, 276 cases

     COVID-19 associated deaths are up in Columbus County for the week ending Tuesday, the number of newly confirmed cases appears to be down, data from North Carolina’s Department of Health and Human Services shows.

     While the week-to-week comparison data seems clear, the actual numbers are higher, Columbus County Health Director Kim Smith told county commissioners Monday.

     DHHS data shows 8 COVID deaths involving county residents for the week, another 276 citizens testing positive for the virus, compared with 5 deaths and 289 cases, continuing a trend that appeared to indicate the post-holiday pandemic surge was easing.

     Smith, however, told commissioners the confirmed COVID for the county as of Monday was 117, 2 higher than the DHHS total, with a pandemic total of 5,628 coronavirus cases, 414 more than shown on the state’s DHHS dashboard Tuesday.

     Of the eight deaths recorded by DHHS, five were from the Whiteville Zip Code, two from Chadbourn, one from Tabor City, the state data showed.

     Zip Code data also showed Whiteville with 105 newly confirmed COVID cases, Tabor City with 46, Chadbourn with 31, Hallsboro with 18, Cerro Gordo with 16, Riegelwood with 14, Clarendon with 12, Nakina with 11, the other Zip Codes with single digit increases.

     Pandemic case/death totals for some Columbus Zip Codes include Tabor City, 1,361/27; Whiteville, 1,596/40; Chadbourn, 592/16; Clarendon, 198/3; Cerro Gordo, 169/2; Nakina, 153/2; and Fair Bluff, 104/5.

     Schools: In the past week COVID cases have been confirmed at three schools in the Columbus County system, one outbreak forcing the Columbus Career and College Academy to take its classes virtual with one staff member testing positive, forcing six into quarantine.

     Two staff members tested positive for the virus at Williams Township School, two students and one staff member at West Columbus High, with no quarantines required.

     Prisons: An outbreak at Columbus Correctional Institution near the town of Brunswick has become evident in the past week, with 34 inmates listed as having active COVID cases on Tuesday. Last Wednesday that number was four.

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.