Columbus County had its highest number of COVID-19 cases in a single day on Thursday, according to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services. Approximately 128 residents tested positive.
The county’s total number of cases is now 4,023, with 87 deaths blamed on COVID-19.
NCDHHS also updated its list of outbreaks and clusters after several weeks off due to the holidays. It showed that the latest outbreak at Liberty Commons still had the same numbers as Dec. 22 with 24 staff cases, 34 resident cases and three resident deaths. It added two new outbreaks: one at Premier Living, with two residents testing positive, and another at Shoreland, with four staff and seven resident cases.
In addition, the North Carolina Department of Public Safety reported zero active COVID-19 cases (same as Monday) and 90 recoveries (two less than Monday) at Columbus Correctional Institution, along with five active cases (one more than Monday) and 543 recoveries (five less than Monday) at Tabor Correctional Institution.
John Bull, spokesperson for NCDPS, explained that recoveries also include “resolved” cases. “When offenders move between facilities, or are released, the number will move with them,” he said.
In addition, the Zion Plain Missionary Baptist Church, 11040 Seven Creek Rd., Nakina, is hosting a COVID-19 testing site on Saturday from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Test results will be sent to a Myrtle Beach lab, with results arriving 24-72 hours later. No appointment is necessary for the free testing, and individuals without insurance are welcome. Call 910-650-6605 or 910-642-7886 for more information.
Schools see COVID-19 surge
Columbus County Schools is holding all-remote instruction for all grades through Jan. 15. Thursday morning CCS spokesman Kelly Jones reported that 29 people within the school system were positive for COVID-19 during the current week. Of that total, 28 were staff and one was a student.
For comparison, CCS had four positive tests the week of Dec. 7 and eight the week of Dec. 14.
County schools sites reporting cases were Acme Delco Elementary (four cases), Cerro Gordo Elementary (one), Chadbourn Elementary (one), East Columbus Jr./Sr. High (three staff, one student), Old Dock Elementary (two), South Columbus High (four), Tabor City Elementary (four), Williams Township (three) and Central Offices (six). Another two East Columbus students were quarantined due to contact with an infected person at school.
Columbus Charter School resumed classes Tuesday under its existing instructional plan. The majority of students are attending in person, with a smaller number attending remotely, as has been the case all year. The school did not provide a count of positive cases or school-related quarantines by 9 a.m. Thursday, but any update received later will be posted on NRcolumbus.com.
Thomas Academy will begin the semester in all-remote instruction mode beginning Jan. 13. Columbus Christian Academy is slated to begin the semester Jan. 11 in person.
Marc Whichard, superintendent of Whiteville City Schools, also reported 16 COVID-19 cases total, with four at Whiteville Primary, one at Edgewood Elementary, two at Central Middle, nine at Whiteville High School and zero at North Whiteville Academy. “They’re a mix of students and staff,” he said.
Whiteville City Schools is currently operating under all-remote instruction until Jan. 15.
Vaccinations in Columbus
Columbus County has the second lowest vaccination record in the area, according to Tuesday NCDHHS data.
As of Tuesday morning, 366 people, not including nursing home staff and residents, within the county had received the Moderna vaccine for COVID-19, according to NCDHHS. No one had received their second dose.
Columbus Regional Healthcare System began inoculating its healthcare workers on Dec. 21, after it received its first shipment of 300 doses of the Moderna vaccine. The Columbus County Health Department also received a shipment, of 200 doses, on Dec. 21, but delayed for a week before beginning administration.
This delay was due to an unexpected arrival of Moderna vaccine doses, staff quarantines, the office being closed due to the holiday, issues uploading employee data onto the state system and nurses wanting more training before administering the vaccine, according to health department officials.
Across the region, 547 people in Pender County had received their first vaccine; 833 people in Robeson County; 1,061 in Brunswick County with one completing the second dose; and 3,182 in New Hanover County with two completing their second dose. Bladen County was the only county with less vaccinations at just 215.
Overall, almost 110,000 North Carolinians have received the first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, with 461 already finished with the second dose, according to NCDHHS. NCDHHS updates these numbers weekly.
These numbers, however, do have a lag time of 72 hours, according to NCDHHS. That means that Columbus County has administered more than 366 individuals as of presstime.
On Jan. 4, the health department received 100 more doses, according to spokesperson Daniel Buck. Some of those doses will be for Phase 1B, Group 1, also known as individuals over the age of 75, which will begin on Monday.
On Thursday, the first day people could schedule vaccine appointments for individuals aged 75 and older, the Columbus County Health Department posted an alert on Facebook, urging residents not to panic and to only leave one voicemail. “Please be patient as we are in the process of calling everyone back that has left voicemails attempting to schedule COVID-19 vaccination appointments,” it stated. “We will have enough COVID-19 vaccines as we receive a shipment weekly.”
A post on the county government Facebook page said the “overwhelming amount of calls” was “jumping up” the phone system at the health department. “We also ask that you do not show up in person to schedule an appointment,” the post stated.