By DEUCE NIVEN
Nearly nine months after vaccines to protect against COVID-19 became available a fourth surge of cases, hospitalizations and deaths in the area reached levels not seen since winter this weekend, with 835 cases and 7 deaths recorded for Horry County, another 149 cases and 2 deaths in Columbus, where the population is much smaller.
Zip Code data from state health agencies shows 69 newly confirmed coronavirus cases in the Loris area since Friday, 25 in Tabor City.
Deaths in Columbus County, reflected in Monday’s NC Department of Health and Human Services data, included one each in the Whiteville and Cerro Gordo Zip codes. South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control data does not break down deaths by Zip Code.
Horry County has recorded a total of 37,491 COVID-19 cases and 516 associated deaths during the pandemic, those numbers for Columbus 8,585 and 173 respectively Horry County’s population is about six times that of Columbus.
Loris has recorded 2,440 coronavirus cases, Tabor City 716 with 11 associated deaths. Green Sea’s case count reached 287, with 7 newly confirmed infections documented during the weekend.
Despite a mask mandate in the Columbus County Schools that began last Monday, South Columbus High recorded 36 new COVID positive tests during the week, resulting in 35 students or staff in quarantine because of exposure on campus, school district data showed.
Those numbers prompted the Columbus County Schools to order virtual classes for all South Columbus students this week, with a decision for the future to be made late in the week. Teachers who are not sick or at home on quarantine are in the classroom, teaching their classes online.
It’s a similar situation for Aynor Middle School, starting a two-week session of virtual learning on Monday, a practice that could be extended.
Horry County Schools on Monday, for the first time this school year, published numbers for students in quarantine, a total of about 6,800, around 15 percent of the student population, already this school year.
A provision in South Carolina’s budget law prohibits, for this year, mask mandates for the public schools. Meanwhile, plexiglass barriers in classrooms were removed during the summer.
A federal civil rights investigation has been launched into South Carolina’s school mask mandate law, and similar bans in other state, with an eye towards possible violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act with some disabled students at higher risk for severe illness caused by the coronavirus, a news release from the U.S. Department of Education said Monday.
Look for updates here as events warrant and in Tabor-Loris Tribune in print and online.