A New Spike
Closed library, cases on the rise: “We must mitigate this virus”.
With total infections over 2,100, Laurens County like the rest of the United States is facing a new spike in potentially deadly COVID-19 infections. Now in its ninth month, the pandemic has contributed to more than 60 deaths in Laurens County, and more than 4,000 deaths in South Carolina.
Testing is continuing, but an official told the county council last Tuesday that fewer people are coming in for testing at the health department and at sites throughout the county. Joey Avery, emergency management director, gave council his every other week report (no report for Nov. 24 as council has decided to skip its fourth Tuesday meeting this month and next).
“We must do everything we can to mitigate this virus,” Avery said.
But people are tired of the virus, and have started returning to normal routines. Veterans Day observances were staged by the Cities of Clinton and Laurens, and Laurens held a family fall festival Nov. 6-7. The County’s Hillcrest Square judicial center re-opened Nov. 2 after an infection and quarantining, but the Clinton Public Library was closed indefinitely on Nov. 10 because of an infection. District 56 reported its 12th infection - two at Clinton High School and one at Clinton Middle School, all Nov. 10. SC DHEC reported Nov. 10 that there are/have been 2,751 infections in schools statewide.
Presbyterian College is reporting more than 100 cumulative cases among its students. Fall classes will end on the Clinton campus Nov. 20.
A chart that Avery gave the county council shows a stead increase, statewide, from 173,491 infections on Oct. 27 to 186,391 infections on Nov. 8. Avery said there are 700 COVID-19 patients in hospital beds and 100 on ventilators, statewide (Nov. 10 number).
“The numbers are certainly up. Nationwide they are breaking records every day. It is working its way toward us. We are definitely not in a downward trend, in my opinion,” Avery said.
Laurens County experienced a spike Nov. 6 with 33 new cases; there were 12 new cases reported Nov. 10. Eighteen people died Nov. 10 from COVID-19 complications, statewide. The last time Laurens County had a testing site, the tests-positive rate came back at 16.6% positive for COVID-19. Upcoming testing sites include Nov. 24 in Cross Hill and Dec. 16 in Joanna.
In other business, council gave second reading approval to an ordinance transferring land with the Vulcan quarry in Gray Court. People concerned about the matter were not allowed to speak - a public hearing will not happen until third and final reading.
Three people spoke during public comments, saying the trash collection site on Webb Road (near the Dollar General and Gray Court-Owings Elementary School) is a problem because of speeding trucks, littering motorists, deteriorating road shoulders, school traffic, and the width of the road.
County Public Works Director Dale Satterfield offered to look into the matter further. There are 19 houses in a subdivision directly effected by the trash site, council was told.
Council delayed action, until January 2021, on a committee’s recommendation to raise the pay of county paramedics and emergency medical technicians.
The committee was offered a 24/72 work schedule idea, but that was rejected because it would cost the county three-quarters of a million dollars. Instead, the committee recommended a $15,000 raise for EMTS and a $3,000 raise for paramedics, costing about $125,000 to come out of reserves. The County EMS has eight vacant positions.
Council Vice-chairman Joe Wood moved to table the matter until new members of council are seated. That passed on a 4-3 vote, with council members Brown Patterson, Jeff Carroll and Garrett McDaniel voting “no”. McDaniel said this is the most cost-effective way to make Laurens County EMS competitive in the Upstate jobs market for these positions.
Council also agreed to seek requests for proposal for a new compensation study. Wood voted “no” - he said the last study like that, The Archer Study, was never acted upon in 2008.
Council gave second reading approval to an ordinance updating the Boards and Commissions rules and regulations, and agreed to allow an agreement with Spartanburg Community College for EMS students to do their clinical training while riding with county EMTs. Council approved the repeal of the county’s former RV Parks ordinance, as it has put into place a new ordinance.
Council was told the Laurens County Disabilities and Special Needs Board has received a $30,000 grant to seek a jobs-transportation provider, and the Emergency Management Office will apply for state and federal grants in the amounts of $61,643 and $17,318. Local matches, if needed, will come from CARES Act funding, provided by the state for COVID-19 response.