Educators in NC move up in line for COVID vaccine; CC records 5 virus deaths, Horry 254 more infections since Monday

Columbus County Board of Education members and staff meet at South Columbus High School Monday. (Deuce Niven, TLT)

By DEUCE NIVEN

tribdeuce@tabor-loris.com

     While the supply of COVID-19 vaccines remain tight, they are rising slowly, allowing North Carolina to make school workers eligible for those coveted shots beginning Feb. 24.

     Meanwhile the uneven pace of coronavirus infections and deaths is noticeable locally, with five newly reported deaths in Columbus since Monday, a surge of 254 confirmed cases in Horry during the same two days.

     This post will cover these topics and may be updated:

  • School workers next in line for vaccine, NC Gov. says
  • Five more COVID deaths in CC this week
  • Horry: 254 new virus infections since Monday

School workers next in line for vaccine, NC Gov. says

     Public, private, and charter school workers, from child care through high school, will be eligible to receive COVID-19 vaccines in a revised Group 3 of North Carolina’s coronavirus vaccination plan beginning Feb. 24, Gov. Roy Cooper and NC Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen announced Wednesday.

     Moving to the front of the line of the line for Group 3 frontline workers will be anyone working in child care or in PreK-12 schools, they said.

     That action came as education leaders across the state have called for educators to be vaccinated in order to more safely reopen schools. Just Monday, the Columbus County Board of Education adopted a “Resolution to Request Prioritization of School Staff for COVID-19 Vaccinations.”

     It was not clear Wednesday if that resolution had made it to Gov. Cooper’s desk, but the decision was welcome locally, Columbus County Schools Supt. Dr. Deanne Meadows said.

     “Columbus County Schools applauds the Governor’s decision to prioritize teachers in the next phase of the COVID vaccine rollout,” Meadows said in a statement. “Prioritizing teachers and other staff for vaccination move us closer to our goal of bringing all students back to in-person instruction as soon as possible.

     “While we have been extremely successful in combating the virus, with zero confirmed cases contracted in our buildings, having all our staff protected adds a layer of safety for staff and students that brings us one step closer to normalcy.”

     Efforts from local educators have not gone unnoticed at the state level, the governor said.

     “I am grateful to all of our educators and school personnel for going above and beyond in this pandemic to care for children and help them continue to learn,” Gov. Cooper said. “Starting with a smaller number of Group 3 frontline essential workers helps providers streamline vaccine distribution effectively and efficiently.”

     Because vaccine supply continues to be limited and the Group 3 population of frontline essential workers is so large, the state needs to move to the next group gradually, both Gov. Cooper and Dr. Cohen said.

     Those working in child care and schools, such as teachers, bus and van drivers, custodial and maintenance staff, and food service workers, will be eligible first. This includes staff in child care centers and homes, Head Start Programs, Preschool and PreK programs, traditional public schools, charter schools and private schools.

     “Vaccine supply limitations continue to impact how fast we can get all North Carolinians vaccinated,” Dr. Cohen said. “Keep doing the 3Ws. Wear a mask, wait 6 feet apart, and wash your hands often. And be sure to visit YourSpotYourShot.nc.gov for accurate information.”

     Under the timeline outlined today, the state plans to move to additional frontline workers on March 10.

Five more COVID deaths in CC this week

     COVID-19 has claimed the lives of five more Columbus County residents, data from the NC Department of Health and Human Services posted between Monday and Wednesday shows.

     Two of those deaths involved residents of the Tabor City Zip Code, with one each from Chadbourn, Fair Bluff and Nakina, the DHHS data showed.

     Another 45 county residents have tested positive for the coronavirus since Monday, the data showed, including 13 from Whiteville.

     Another seven infections were recorded in the Tabor City Zip Code; six each in Chadbourn, Cerro Gordo and Hallsboro; two each in Lake Waccamaw, Delco and Riegelwood; one each in Fair Bluff and Evergreen.

     COVID-19 has claimed the lives of 132 Columbus residents since the pandemic began, infected a confirmed 5,421. Case/death totals for some county Zip Codes include Whiteville, 1,682/46; Tabor City, 1,395/33; Chadbourn, 621/18; Clarendon, 203/3; Cerro Gordo, 180/2; Nakina, 162/3; and Fair Bluff, 109/6.

     North Carolina reported 3,833 new COVID infections Wednesday and 135 associated deaths, bringing those pandemic totals to 805,898 and 10,181 respectively.

     Statewide 2,291 people were hospitalized due to the coronavirus Wednesday, that number down by 83 from Tuesday.

Horry: 254 new virus infections since Monday

     There have been no new confirmed COVID-19 associated deaths involving Horry County residents since Monday, data from South Carolina’s Department of Health and Environmental Control showed Wednesday.

     In fact, that data showed a one-case decline, which typically happens when the verification process finds that a person who may have died in the county was actually a resident of another, DHEC leaders have said previously.

     However, coronavirus infections have not slowed, with 254 newly confirmed cases since Monday, the DHEC data showed, including a 12 in the Loris Zip Code, a single new care for Green Sea.

     COVID-19 has taken a confirmed 381 Horry lives during the pandemic, that total likely much higher, and infected 25,075 residents including 1,588 from the Loris Zip Code, 206 from Green Sea.

     South Carolina has recorded 417,807 COVID cases during the pandemic, 6,923 deaths, those numbers up by 1,516 and 39 respectively Tuesday.

     Statewide 1,439 people were hospitalized due to the coronavirus Wednesday, that number down by 26 since 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.