Coronavirus Update: Confirmed Beaufort County cases reach 7 and other updates

9 mins read

By Mindy Lucas and Mike McCombs

As the Lowcountry continues to brace for the impact of the COVID-19 coronavirus on businesses, schools and organizations as well as personal health, DHEC announced additional cases both around the state and in Beaufort this week.

South Carolina now has 81 cases in 17 counties, said the state’s epidemiologist, Dr. Linda Bell, at Gov. Henry McMaster’s press conference on Thursday, March 19. For a breakdown of where those cases are, visit DHEC’s COVID-19 county map.

Here in Beaufort County, positive cases now total 7.

The four Beaufort Memorial Hospital employees who self-quarantined after coming into contact with potentially infected patients tested negative for the coronavirus, however, said BMH spokesperson Courtney McDermott.

Also around Beaufort:

MCRD Parris Island and MCAS Beaufort

Most employees of MCCS – Marine Corps Community Services – will not return to work Friday on MCRD Parris Island and MCAS Beaufort, and they will be allowed to telework for an indefinite period of time.

MCCS, according to its website, is a “comprehensive set of programs that support and enhance the operational readiness, war fighting capabilities, and life quality of Marines, their families, retirees and civilians.”

MCCS employees at Parris Island and MCAS Beaufort handle such tasks as employment, education and transition assistance; fitness and recreation; deployment support and family team building; child care and youth activities; prevention, counseling and victim support; golf courses; dining and entertainment; and shopping. 

Sheriff’s Office

Beaufort County Sheriff P.J. Tanner and members of the county’s emergency management team stood the recommended six-feet apart from each other at a Thursday afternoon press conference, noting that they too were practicing social distancing.

Tanner underscored the importance of residents to take up the practice and stay at home when possible.

He also noted that the McMaster’s recent order for restaurants and bars to close all dine-in service came with a “law enforcement component” and his office intended to enforce it.

Some restaurants on Wednesday, had continued to remain open after the Tuesday order, or had continued to offer outdoor dining. Deputies from the Sheriff’s Office had visited those businesses, issued a warning summons and explained that if they continued to remain open or provide on-site dining, they would be ticketed, he said.

Cruise Ships in Beaufort

As previously reported in The Island News, American Cruise Lines, had cancelled cruises that were to stop in Beaufort last weekend.

Since then, the cruise lines have suspended all cruise operations for the time being, according to company spokesperson Alexa Paolella.

A cruise ship that could be seen tied-up near the downtown marina has received a lot of concern on social media.

That ship, operating with only a minimal staff, does not have any passengers on board. The city and Safe Harbor, the company that manages the marina, gave the ship permission to tie up between stops.

County Government

In addition to strongly encouraging the public to limit their visits to county buildings, unless they have an urgent matter, the county is also closing its regular Monday night county council meeting to the public.

Residents can watch the meeting, at 6 p.m., Monday, March 23, on the county’s Facebook page or on the County Channel. Residents with a comment can email statements to sbrock@bcgov.net.

Colleges and Universities

At his Thursday press conference, McMaster ordered all non-essential state employees work from home. Each state agency’s director is to make the determination who is essential.

In addition, he asked that all colleges, universities and technical colleges have their non-essential employees begin working from home, adding that it was up to the presidents of those institutions to determine who is essential and that all college students would be continuing with online education.

Service Industry

Those in the service industry that have been laid off or impacted by the shut down, would be receiving unemployment assistance quicker than normal, said Dan Ellzey, Executive Director of the S.C. Department of Employment and Workforce, at the Governor’s Thursday press conference.

Checks that normally take two weeks when an applicant first applies for assistance, will now receive their checks in a week’s time under the Governor’s latest executive order, Ellzey said. If it is an employer-filed claim it may take only three days.

In addition, problems with the state’s unemployment website that many experienced earlier in the week, have been worked out after the agency added additional capacity and the system is running fine now, he said.

Beaufort Memorial Hospital

Beaufort Memorial Hospital is now offering free online provider visits “24/7 for patients with symptoms such as fever, cough and shortness of breath,” according to a release issued by the hospital on Thursday.

The free video visits are available until further notice to those who qualify, though restrictions may apply.

A patient can use a smart phone, tablet or computer to set up a BMH Care Anywhere account, select the “COVID-19 Visits” option, then see a board-certified provider and start a visit. The provider will review intake information, then connect with the patient to discuss symptoms and treatment options, the release stated.

Patients will need a credit or debit card to begin their visit and will see an authorization hold of $59 placed on their account. At the end of the visit, the provider will waive the fee for patients with respiratory symptoms and the authorization hold will be immediately lifted. The length of time to clear the charge from billing statements varies by bank or credit card company.

In cases where COVID-19 is suspected, patients will be directed to a Beaufort Memorial Express Care location for additional screening to determine if they meet the criteria for COVID-19 testing. 

In addition and to help reduce the spread of infectious illness in the Lowcountry, Walk-In Care kiosks at Publix pharmacies in Beaufort and Bluffton have been closed.

For more information about BMH Care Anywhere visit www.BMHCareAnywhere.org.

Taste of Beaufort

The Beaufort Regional Chamber of Commerce canceled the annual Taste of Beaufort festival scheduled for May 1-2 in Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park.

“Under the current circumstance of the COVID-19 pandemic, and in compliance with CDC guidelines, we are unable to move forward with plans for this much anticipated event,” the Chamber’s statement read. “The safety and well-being of our guests is of utmost importance, and the uncertainty of our current situation leaves us no choice but to abandon our plans to host the festival.

“While we don’t know exactly when, we look forward to better days ahead and we’ll be working hard to give Beaufort the biggest and best Shrimp Festival ever in October! Thank you for your understanding, and please stay safe and healthy!”

 

 

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