‘Scary’ drop in CC COVID cases, death toll down sharply in Horry, weather may delay vaccinations

By DEUCE NIVEN

tribdeuce@tabor-loris.com

     A ‘scary’ decline in COVID-19 case activity in Columbus County, a sharp drop in associated deaths in Horry, comes as winter weather in much of the country threatens to delay vaccinations as early as this week.

     This post will cover these topics and may be updated:

  • Winter weather may delay vaccinations
  • Columbus COVID decline: ‘It’s scary.’
  • Virus death toll drops sharply in Horry

Columbus County Health Director Kim Smith (Deuce Niven, TLT)

Winter weather may delay vaccinations

     COVID-19 vaccination appointments for later this week may be cancelled, victim of severe winter weather elsewhere in the country, Columbus County Health Director Kim Smith said Tuesday.

     Smith was speaking to appointments already scheduled by the health department, but similar warnings were being sounded across the county, national media outlets were reporting.

     “We’ve been notified that there is a good possibility that vaccine shipments have been impeded by the weather,” Smith said.

     Vaccine doses typically arrive between Tuesday and Thursday, and at the end of the day Tuesday none had arrived, Smith said.

     Appointments beginning Thursday will be impacted, if vaccines do not arrive, Smith said.

     Vaccinations scheduled for older people, 65 and older, will be paused by the health department beginning next Wednesday in so that teachers and other staff at public and private schools across the county can get their shots, Smith said.

     “Between the county and Whiteville City schools we have 500 who have said they want the vaccine,” Smith said.

     Private and charter school numbers were not known Tuesday, but will be smaller in number, she said.

     Gov. Roy Cooper issued an executive order last week pushing school personnel higher on the COVID-19 vaccine priority list, part of the state’s effort to get schools open to in-person learning more quickly.

     Health Department workers will attempt to notify those impacted by any vaccination cancellations by phone, Smith said, though she admitted that won’t always be successful, and some could be turned away when they arrive for the scheduled shots.

     To schedule a COVID-19 vaccination appointment through the Columbus County Health Department call 910-640-6615 Ext. 7070, 7072, or 7074.

Columbus COVID decline: ‘It’s scary.’

     Newly confirmed COVID-19 cases and associated deaths are trending much lower in Columbus County in the past week, good news for sure, but?

     “It’s scary,” Columbus County Health Director Kim Smith said. “We’ve gotten used to seeing 100 or more new cases in a day. Today, we’ve had 7.”

     COVID associated deaths in Columbus County plummeted to 3 in the week ending Tuesday, a fifth of the 15 recorded the previous week, data from the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services show.

     Those deaths involved residents of the Tabor City, Fair Bluff and Chadbourn Zip Codes, and all were reported between Tuesday and Friday of last week.

     Coronavirus cases fell at a much lower rate for the same week, from 200 to 172 week-to-week, but the bulk of those cases were recorded in the early part of the seven day period. Since Sunday the county has only recorded 17 new COVID cases, and no deaths.

     Just why isn’t clear, and it may not mean the COVID threat has abated, Smith said.

     There may be some people who recognize symptoms some other family member who had COVID had and they choose to stay home and not get tested, at least as long as they can,” Smith said.

     Less access to free testing may be a factor, too, Smith said. Federal CARES Act funding has run out for testing sites operated by Goshen Medical, she said. While those sites, including one in Tabor City, still offer testing, those without insurance to cover the cost have to pay.

     While vaccination efforts are underway, it’s early and not likely to be making a significant dent in virus spread, Smith said. Worrisome “spreader events” remain, Super Bowl Sunday perhaps one to cause worry with crowds gathering for parties at various locations.

     “I would think if we’re going to have a spike after the Super Bowl, that would probably be starting this weekend,” Smith said.

     COVID-19 precautions have not changed, and remain essential, Smith said. Those are the three Ws: Wear a mask, wait six feet apart, and wash your hands often.

     North Carolina has been recording improving trends statewide, too, the number of newly confirmed cases falling below 2,000 for the first time in months on Tuesday.

     North Carolina reported 1,988 new COVID infections Tuesday and 61 associated deaths, bringing those pandemic totals to 826,340 and 10,562 respectively.

     Statewide 1,958 people were hospitalized due to the coronavirus Tuesday, that number up by 17 from Monday, though the trend for more than two weeks has been for fewer hospitalizations.

Virus death toll drops sharply in Horry

     COVID-19 claimed the lives of eight Horry County residents during the week ending Tuesday, a third of the total from the previous week, South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control data showed.

     DHEC data showing those totals and data on age and dates of death for those claimed by the disease were inconsistent, but it appeared that six of the eight who died were elderly, the other two middle aged, those deaths taking place mostly this month, bus some delayed from as early as Jan. 11, 20, and 22.

     There was a decline in newly confirmed COVID cases for Horry for the week ending Tuesday, 849 compared to 941 for the previous seven day period, the DHEC data showed.

     Zip Code data showed 73 of the newly confirmed cases for the week from the Loris area, 17 from Green Sea.

     COVID-19 as claimed 390 Horry County lives in just a little less than a year, and infected a confirmed 25,788 residents including 1,652 from the Loris area, 222 from Green Sea, DHEC data showed Tuesday.

     South Carolina has recorded 428,684 COVID cases during the pandemic, 7,196 deaths, those numbers up by 868 and 16 respectively since Monday.

     Statewide 1,230 people were hospitalized due to the coronavirus Tuesday, that number up by 8 since Monday, though the trend in recent weeks has been generally down.

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.