Coronavirus: The latest local updates, cancellations, resources, + more

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Coronavirus I Image via @6AMCity

Major Local Announcements

DHEC is encouraging all SC residents to respond to legitimate contact tracing calls + emails from public health officials, while remaining vigilant against scams. Legitimate contact tracing includes two components: case investigations and contact monitoring. If you test positive for COVID-19, a contact tracer from DHEC will call you – and only ask you these questions.

○ DHEC launched a “Fight the Spread” campaign as rates of asymptomatic cases of COVID-19 increase. The campaign reminds SC residents to wear masks, practice social distancing + get tested. (ABC Columbia)

Prisma Health will conduct all of it’s community testing at the same location the Department of Consumer Affairs building at 2221 Devine St. Testing will be held each Tuesday, Friday and Saturday + it will remain free and appointments won’t be required. (ABC Columbia)

Gov. Henry McMaster announced that the guidelines previously recommended for restaurants + other establishments attracting groups of people are now mandatory. A list of the now mandatory guidelines can be found here.

○ Gov. Henry McMaster issued an order stating that all restaurants and bars in SC must stop the serving of alcoholic beverages after 11 p.m., which will last until further notice. This order does not apply to alcohol sold at convenience or grocery stores, wine and liquor stores, or retail businesses. (WIS)

All 81 of South Carolina’s school districts have been approved to proceed with reopening plans, whether those plans are for in-person or online instruction. There are 17 districts that have opted to begin classes in one week, while 31 others have pushed back the first day to September 8 + other districts are somewhere in between. (Post and Courier)

In a letter to DHEC, Gov. Henry McMaster has asked the state health organization to create a system to collect positive COVID-19 testing results from each school district + report that data to the public daily. (WIS)

State Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman announced everyone (two-years-old and older) inside public schools will be required to wear face masks, including faculty and students. The Department of Education will provide five cloth masks to teachers, bus drivers, custodians + food service workers. (The State)

○ Gov. Henry McMaster announced that South Carolina will purchase $10 million in PPE + distribute it to 70 school districts across the state. Equipment will include face masks, face shields, gloves, gowns for nurses, disinfecting wipes and more. (WLTX)

The South Carolina Department of Education received $15,049,608 in funding from the U.S. Department of Education. The money is for the “Rethink K-12 Education Models Grant,” which requires states to reevaluate current education models and is part of the CARES Act money. SC’s application focuses on improving communications between teachers, families, and the schools, increasing remote learning resources + more. (Metro Columbia CEO)

SC Schools have requested for the state to pay for 57,000 households to have access to broadband internet as the new school year nears. The project will cost $8 million of the $20 million currently budgeted for this program. (The State)

According to the SC Department of Social Services (DSS), 37% of child care centers across the state are still closed. DSS is now accepting applications for “Certificates of Temporary Operation” from organizations in school districts without fully in-person options to offer temporary child care services. (WIS)

○ Publix shoppers will be required to wear masks inside the grocery store. Delivery and pick-up options are encouraged to those who can’t wear a face covering. (WLTX)

○ Kroger announced that all customers will be required to wear a mask when shopping in stores. There are four locations in the Columbia area. (ABC Columbia)

Target + CVS Pharmacy to require all customers to wear a mask. (WIS)

○ Walmart + Sam’s Club require customers to wear masks. Walmart has over 4,700 company-owned U.S. stores, 12 of which are in the Columbia area. (WIS)

○ Bi-Lo requires its shoppers to wear face coverings inside of its stores. (WIS)

EBT cards can be used to purchase eligible food items online through Walmart and Amazon in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

South Carolina State Parks announced that masks are mandatory for all guests over the age of two in public spaces or where park employees are located, including all offices, visitor centers, restrooms + stores. (The State)

Governor McMaster announced Nephron Pharmaceuticals is working to expand operations in Lexington County. The company’s President + CEO, Lou Kennedy, said the first five million COVID-19 vaccines Nephron fills will go to South Carolina residents. (WIS)

○ Columbia Metropolitan Airport is now offering free masks to any travelers courtesy of The U.S. Department of Transportation. The masks are available at the information desk in the main lobby and in the line at the TSA Security checkpoint. American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, and United Airlines serve CAE + each airline is requiring their passengers to wear a mask or face covering onboard their flights.

○ Riverbanks Zoo and Gardens is requiring all guests over the age of 10 to wear face masks, due to the mask ordinance within the city of Columbia. Visitors are expected to wear masks indoors + outdoors when six feet of social distancing cannot be maintained.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, SCEMD is changing parts of the Statewide Hurricane Plan. Officials encourage evacuees to use shelters as a last resort + stay with friends or family inland. More buses will be added to help evacuate affected areas while maintaining social distancing. Click here to download SCEMD’s app to receive important notifications. (WLTX)

○ Police departments across the Midlands, including Columbia, Forest Acres, Irmo, West Columbia and Lexington, have limited in-person responses to non-emergency calls. Departments are using deputy phone calls and online report filing to follow social distancing guidelines. (The State) 

○ Columbia City Council has approved $6 million to help the community including $500,000 in zero-interest, forgivable small business loans + $500,000 to support nonprofit organizations focused on providing the needs of seniors, offering homeless resources and supplementing rent assistance programs. (WIS) 

Columbia’s Solid Waste Division is asking that all garbage out for pick-up has been baggedor double bagged if anyone in the household is sick. Only garbage inside of city-issued roll carts will be picked up. (ABC Columbia)  

The COMET has received ~$13 million in grant funding from the Federal Transit Administration. The federal grant, which is funded through the CARES Act, will help keep the bus system running while implementing safety measures. (ABC Columbia)

SCDHEC provided Lexington Medical Center and the Department of Corrections main intake center – among other hospitals across the state – with rapid coronavirus testing machines. However, high use of the machines won’t be available immediately due to demand of materials used for testing. (The State)

○ Most SCDMV locations are open on weekdays from 8:30 a.m.-5:00 p.m. All locations will continue seeing customers by appointment only + continue to limit the number of guests waiting inside. Modified driving tests will be administered at select locations throughout the week to allow for social distancing. (WLTX)

○ Richland County Economic Development is offering no-touch thermometers to private-sector businesses with frequent person-to-person contact. 227 thermometers were given to the county by the Federal Emergency Management Agency + more are expected.

○ SC DHEC + SC Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation announced that nursing graduates have been granted temporary authorization to practice so they can assist health care facilities with staffing shortages due to COVID-19. (Fox Carolina)

The University of South Carolina announced that students applying for freshman admission to the main campus will not be required to provide SAT or ACT test scores for the spring, summer or fall 2021 terms due to testing interruptions caused by COVID-19. (The State)

Nephron Pharmaceuticals Corp. has donated a new Opentrons robotic liquid handler to UofSC to help the university process more COVID-19 tests as the campus prepares to reopen to students this fall. (CRBR)

○ Nephron Pharmaceuticals announced a $50,000 donation to the South Carolina branch of the American Red Cross due to the strain local blood banks have experienced since the beginning of COVID-19. Visit the website to make an appointment to donate. Plus, all blood donations are being tested for COVID-19 antibodies.

○ UofSC is asking for volunteers who have recovered from COVID-19 to participate in a study investigating the virus’ effects. Volunteers must be between the ages of 20-80 + have been recovered for at least two weeks. Find more information here. (WIS)

○ Midlands Technical College (MTC) has switched the fall course catalog from offering 75% in-person instruction to 45% virtual instruction and 33% in-person instruction. MTC faculty and staff are presenting live virtual class demonstrations today + tomorrow. The virtual class demos are free and will show what the new virtual learning experience will be like.

The West Columbia Meeting St. Artisan Market, which is open Saturdays from 9 a.m.-1p.m., is now requiring face masks for all visitors.

Columbia Animal Services has created a free food pantry for those who are struggling to provide food to their pets. Those who are needing pet food can contact the shelter + those who would like to support the pantry can drop off donations outside the shelter, located at 127 Humane Lane, or in the food donations box inside. (WLTX)

West Columbia City Hall has reopened to the public. Social distancing guidelines are in place and signage is posted. Access to City Hall will be restricted from 11:30 a.m. -12:30 p.m. + from 4:00-5:00 p.m. each day to allow for cleaning and sanitizing. The drive-thru will remain open during these times.

The SC House has approved a plan to allocate the CARES Act federal funding the state received. The plan includes expanding broadband access across the state, testing and rebuilding the unemployment trust fund. Roughly $600 million in funding will be saved for future COVID-19 response through the end of this year. (WIS)

○ Columbia Museum of Art announced it has been selected as a CARES Act economic stabilization grant of $150,000 recipient from the National Endowment for the Humanities. The award will support the plans for the upcoming major exhibition Visions from India: 21st-Century Art from the Pizzuti Collection.

In response to the rising COVID-19 cases in SC, the state has increased the testing goal to between 110,000 and 165,000 residents per month through the end of 2020. Click here for more testing locations.

○ Governor Henry McMaster announced a sticker program to identify restaurants abiding by CDC and DHEC health recommendations. By obtaining the sticker, the governor also asks participating restaurants to take online courses + have a limited DHEC inspection. An online portal will allow guests to comment on experiences at these restaurants and report any observed behavior that doesn’t follow recommendations. (The State)

New York, New Jersey + Connecticut have announced that any travelers, from South Carolina or other states with increased daily COVID-19, cases will be asked to quarantine for up to two weeks upon their arrival. (The State) 

○ Governor Henry McMaster signed an emergency funding bill, giving $45 million to DHEC to help fund coronavirus relief in the state. Funds will assist DHEC in hiring more people, buying more protective equipment, an education campaign + more. (WIS)

Governor McMaster issued an executive order, which activated the SC National Guard, granted emergency powers to DHEC + requires 9-1-1 dispatchers to ask any callers if they, or someone in their home, are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms. (WIS)

The Palmetto Priority program – an initiative announced by Gov. Henry McMaster earlier this month to encourage safe practices at restaurants – now has 2,500 participants across the state. According to the program, 500 of these restaurants are being added to the website each day. (CRBR)

DHEC has released new guidelines calling for expanded COVID-19 testing for patients + staff at SC nursing homes in an effort to ease visitation restrictions. The agency restricted visits to nursing homes on March 13. (WIS)

Columbia City Council members passed an amendment to the Rental Housing Regulations, which makes hosting a house party a serious offense. (WIS)

City of Columbia has received $2.9 million from the $14.3 million in federal funds from the Department of Commerce Economic Development Administration. The funding will be used to establish the Resilient Columbia CARES Act Revolving Loan Fund. Business owners within city limits can apply for loans from $10,000 – $200,000. (Midlands Biz)

In an effort to help schools through the pandemic, BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina has pledged to donate $8 million across five historically black colleges and universities in SC. Of the five, Allen University and Benedict College are two of the recipients. (Post and Courier)

South Carolina State Library is now offering curbside pickup. To participate, browse the library’s catalog, place your selections on hold, then contact the library to arrange a pickup time.

○ Yesterday, Gamecock Football released plans to allow 20,000 fans in Williams-Brice for the 2020 football season. Other fall sports will also be allowed limited capacity seating at their games. (WLTX)

The City of Cayce has revised its face mask ordinance to include public schools within the city limits. The new ordinance is the first in South Carolina to include the SC Department of Education language in its face covering requirement. (WIS)

The case over the constitutionality of Gov. Henry McMaster spending $32 million from CARES Act education accounts on private school tuition aid will be heard by the South Carolina Supreme Court. The decision was initially blocked by a circuit court judge in July, but did not meet a ruling. (The State)

Yesterday afternoon, Gov. Henry McMaster + DHEC announced new nursing home visitation guidelines. Guidelines will include visitations taking place outside, ensuring nursing homes haven’t had positive COVID-19 tests in two weeks + having adequate protective equipment. Visitation will have to be suspended if residents do test positive. (The State)

United Way of the Midlands announced that the organization is investing $2.8 million in grants to 33 programs in Calhoun, Fairfield, Lexington, Newberry, Orangeburg and Richland counties – specifically to programs that focus on early-childhood literacy, ending homelessness, improving access to health care, and responding to COVID-19. These funds include $636,000 donated to the United Way of the Midlands COVID-19 Response Fund.

After COVID-19 cases increased rapidly on UofSC’s campus last week, President Caslen stated that the school will consider fully virtual instruction if cases continue to increase at that rate. He also said that students who violate quarantine or host house parties will be eligible for suspension. (The State)

The Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston has been selected to participate in a COVID-19 vaccine trial. Approx. 1,500 residents will receive the vaccine, two-thirds will receive the real thing + one-third will receive a placebo. Participants will be monitored for two years. (The State)

○ Late last week, SCDHEC announced the agency + several key partners are developing a statewide COVID-19 vaccination testing plan in accordance with federal guidance. The overarching goal of this vaccination plan will be the equitable distribution of vaccines across the state. (WCSC)

○ Yesterday, SCDHEC announced that the organization is launching a new immunization information system that will help ensure access + availability of essential immunizations to everyone in SC. The Statewide Immunization Online Network (SIMON) will provide a streamlined process for immunization providers to manage vaccine inventory in addition to providing patient reminders and offering a patient portal to view immunization records. (WLTX)

○ Yesterday, Gov. Henry McMaster announced his recommendations for the second round of CARES act funds including $450 million to the Unemployment Trust Fund, $45 million in grants for small businesses + non-profit organizations that did not receive federal PPP loans, and $93 million to reimburse DHEC and MUSC. The governor also recommends $50 million to be reimbursed for public school districts and charter schools and $100 million to state agencies with COVID-19 related expenses.

○ This week, the South Carolina House and Senate passed the proposal for how the second round of COVID-19 funding would be spent. The majority of the funding – $420 million – will go towards the state’s unemployment fund. (WIS)

State lawmakers have decided how to allocate the remaining $600 million in CARES Act Funds, including $40 million to minority and small businesses. Grants will be between $2,000 and $25,000. Minority businesses, those who haven’t received previous pandemic-related assistance + businesses with fewer than 15 employees will be given priority. (WIS)

On Friday, Gov. Henry McMaster lifted restaurant occupancy limits across the state – meaning restaurants can now operate at 100% capacity. You can read the full executive order here.

In an effort to fight COVID-19 in the state’s correct system, the SC Department of Corrections announced a plan to spend $1 million on air ionizers, which will be attached to ventilation systems and help kill the virus. Funds for the project will come from internal canteen funds + officials have been encouraged to apply for CARES Act funding. (WIS)

According to health officials, South Carolina now has the lowest COVID-19 transmission rate in the country, which is calculated through contact tracing. On Wednesday, the state’s rate was 0.81. (WLTX)

○ Last week, Gov. Henry McMaster and representatives from Lakota Medical, located in Inman, announced that the company is donating 200,000 masks to the state of South Carolina. The masks will be held at the state’s PPE stockpile, which is used to supplement supplies at schools, long-term care facilities, healthcare facilities + for first responders if their own supplies become critically low.

○ SC State Superintendent Molly Spearman has sent $43 million in protective equipment to 1,300+ schools in SC, which fulfills every item in their requests to help them open for in-person classes. This includes 300,000 sheets of Plexiglass that will provide barriers between students at desks and tables. (AP News)

On Friday, DHEC submitted its coronavirus vaccine plan to the US Department of Health and Human Services. The state’s plan focuses on equitable distribution + the first to receive the vaccine will be considered the most at-risk. DHEC expects increased access in 2021. (WIS)

○ The South Carolina Hospital Association announced that $100,000 in grants have been distributed to frontline healthcare staff that were impacted by COVID-19. Applications were received from hospital employees in 26 facilities and included healthcare workers from pharmacy technicians to security officers and food service staff. The committee’s review process prioritized applicants who experienced financial or other personal impacts. (Metro Columbia CEO)

UofSC received a $16.7 million grant to expand its rapid saliva-based COVID-19 testing to other colleges and universities across the state this spring. (UofSC)

DHEC and UofSC are partnering for SC Strong, a statewide, science-guided, year-long project, which will provide information about disease infection + immunity over time and will help identify health inequities. A total of 32,500 South Carolinians have been randomly selected to take part in the first round of testing and will receive a blue envelope in the mail. Participation includes two steps – first complete an online survey and then take one free COVID-19 test.

Gov. Henry McMaster has petitioned the South Carolina Supreme Court to reconsider the case for allocating $32 million to the SAFE grant program for private school tuition. Earlier this month, the court had unanimously determined that this was unconstitutional. (WIS)

The South Carolina Department of Employment and Workforce announced that 3,837 people filed unemployment insurance claims during the week of Oct. 19-24. This continues the overall downward trend in unemployment claims that began in July. Richland County reported 402 new claims + Lexington County reported 149 new claims. (WLTX)

Earlier this week, the City of West Columbia extended its emergency face covering ordinance through the end of 2020. The city council will reevaluate the ordinance on Jan. 2, 2021. (WLTX)

○ The Town of Lexington did not renew its face mask ordinance at the council meeting on Tuesday evening. Businesses could still require customers + employees to wear face coverings before entering. (The State)

Following a recent uptick in coronavirus cases, SC DHEC officials warned South Carolinians that a fall surge in the virus could be starting. Recommendations include continuing to follow COVID-19 precautions, such as wearing a mask and social distancing, and getting the flu shot.

○ DHEC urges South Carolinians to be positive you’re negative by getting tested regularly if out in the community often. It is also recommended to get tested before and after holiday traveling or events. For the complete list of Thanksgiving recommendations from DHEC visit this website. (Metro Columbia CEO)

○ Richland School District Two has cancelled the two previously scheduled in-person days before Thanksgiving (Nov. 23 and 24) + moved them to eLearning days. The decision was made in an effort to ease contact tracing procedures + out of caution due to the number of students and teachers having to quarantine after being identified as close contacts. (WIS)

In a press conference yesterday afternoon, Gov. Henry McMaster announced all South Carolina public schools will receive COVID-19 rapid testing kits for students, faculty and staff who are symptomatic. Students will need permission from guardians to be tested + officials expect to deliver kits the week following Thanksgiving. (WIS)

Local pharmaceutical company The Ritedose Corporation has partnered with ApiJect Systems Corp to assist the federal government in Operation Warp Speed – the project focused on filling COVID-19 vaccines. The company will produce prefilled syringes and, following the repurposing and upgrading of equipment, has the capacity to fill approx. 45 million vaccines a month. (WLTX)

Schedule Changes + Closures 

○ Crash Course Columbia announced that it has moved all tour dates to 2021. Crash Course Columbia is a behind the scenes look at popular Columbia attractions hosted by Columbia Opportunity Resource.

Farm to Table Productions has cancelled the Main Street Dinner, previously scheduled for Sept. 27. All tickets can be transferred to April 2021.

Junior League of Columbia has cancelled the 2020 Holiday Market due to concerns over the coronavirus. The festivities will resume in 2021 from December 1-5.

The Rosé Festival has been postponed until May 16, 2021 due to coronavirus concerns. Those who purchased tickets can email F2T Productions for a refund or transfer their ticket to the 2021 date. Check out other 2021 event dates by F2T Productions here.

The Harbison Theater has postponed its season until January. Many shows that were cancelled due to the pandemic have been rescheduled for spring. View an updated list of rescheduled shows here. (Free Times)

City of West Columbia’s third annual Kinetic Derby Day has been cancelled. The planning committee announced that the fourth annual event will return on April 24, 2021.

○ Dominion Energy postponed opening public recreation facilities including the beach + recreation area on the Lexington side of the Lake Murray dam. The boat launch on the Irmo side of the dam will remain open. (WIS)

All Richland County Government facilities are restricted to essential personnel only. Many services and payments are still available through its website.

UofSC released guidelines for fans attending football games with parking lots operated by the Athletics Department opening two and half hours prior to kickoff. Fans are asked not to use tents + discouraged from tailgating, using grills or bringing coolers. Additionally, face masks will be required to enter the stadium. (Fox Carolina)

The 47th annual Irmo Okra Strut Festival, which was originally scheduled for Sept. 25-26, has been cancelled. Organizers have said planning for the 2021 event will begin in December. (WLTX)

Earlier this week, the Richland County Recreation Commission reopened all athletic fields and playgrounds as part of phase four of the reopening plan. Social distancing and other health measures will be required. (WIS)

○ Lexington County Library has reopened its Lexington Main, Irmo and Cayce-West Columbia locations with limited hours for browsing, computers by appointment and mobile printing. Those who visit will have their temperatures taken at the door + will be required to wear a face mask at all times.

The annual Economic Outlook Series held by UofSC’s Darla Moore School of Business will take place Sept. 20 and Nov. 30 as live streaming events this year. Find more information and register for the events here. (CRBR)

○ Transmission Arcade is opening for public hours this Wednesday. Masks will be required unless seated at a table + temperature checks and hand sanitizing will be required at the door. Public hours are Wednesday-Friday from 4-11 p.m. (21+ after 7 p.m.)

○ Elton John’s “Farewell Yellow Brick Road” tour stop at the Colonial Life Arena has been rescheduled to April 20, 2022. Those who purchased tickets for the previous date will be able to use them in 2022. (WIS)

○ Blue Flour Bakery has decided to permanently close its Main Street location after four years due to coronavirus impacts. However, the Irmo location will remain open + has extended its offerings to include brunch.

Beginning today, Richland Library is extending its curbside pickup service to every location. Holds will be available for pickup between the hours of 9 a.m.-1 p.m. and 2-6 p.m. Outdoor seating has also been extended to the Cooper, Eastover, Edgewood, North Main and Sandhills locations.

○ SC DHEC has released updated guidelines to permit indoor visits at nursing homes + other long-term health care facilities in South Carolina. The new update also states that compassionate care visits must be allowed regardless of the facilities visitation policy. (WIS)

○ The Cayce-West Columbia Chamber of Commerce announced that the annual Parade of Lights event has been cancelled. (West Metro News)

The 2021 Doko Film Fest – a competition for high school filmmakers – will be completely virtual in 2021. While the decision allows for social distancing and other safety measures, Doko Film Fest officials also noted that the online concept allows for greater participation across the nation and world. (Midlands Biz)

Richland Library is expanding services to offer options for browsing + computer use starting today. Outdoor browsing + laptop use is available, weather permitting, at 12 library locations and limited indoor computer use is available at Richland Library Main. Each computer station will be spaced six feet apart along the Atrium and is accessible from the Hampton Street entrance.

Saluda Shoals’ annual Sleigh Bell Stroll has been cancelled out of an abundance of caution, due to an increase in COVID-19 cases.

Community Resources + Support 

DHEC released a new dashboard, which provides detailed data from the county-level to look at the impacts of COVID-19 in SC. This new dashboard was developed by DHEC’s data analysts, GIS specialists + epidemiologists using information gathered through the agency’s expansive coronavirus monitoring resources. View the dashboard here.

○ South Carolina Emergency Management Division released a map to track which municipalities are requiring face masks. Currently, 60 municipalities + 10 counties have an ordinance in place. Check out the map here.

○ Remaining aware of potential scam attempts is important. A contact tracer will never ask for your social security number, money, bank account or credit card number, or immigrant status. If you are concerned about whether a caller is a real DHEC official, verify their identity by asking them to send you an email (the address should end with @dhec.sc.gov) or calling the DHEC regional epidemiology office to confirm the caller’s name and credentials. Learn about reporting potential scams here.

○ Gov. Henry McMaster announced that $32 million from the federal CARES act would create the Safe Access to Flexible Education Grants. Eligible students can apply for a one-time grant of up to $6,500 for participating private, parochial or independent schools in SC. (The State)

467,000 South Carolina students, including every Richland School District One student, who qualified for free or reduced-priced meals will be mailed an EBT card with the one-time payment of $330 to help cover the meals they did not receive since schools closed in mid-March. (The State)

Uninsured South Carolina residents can now apply for reimbursement of COVID-19 testing through the SC Department of Health and Human Services Limited Benefit Program. To qualify the test must be conducted by a healthcare provider who accepts Healthy Connections Medicaid. Those who were tested after March 18 may also apply for reimbursement. (WIS)

○ If you live in the Midlands or Upstate of South Carolina + someone in your household has a disability, you may qualify for a free COVID-19 Sanitation Kit from Able SC. Some items in the kit include face masks, cleaning supplies, toilet paper, and more. To get more information and sign-up, click here or call (803) 779-5121.

Richland Library and Columbia Housing are working together to launch the Home-Spot initiative – a program focused on bringing high-speed internet access to underserved areas. Through July 2021, 65 Wi-Fi hotspots will be distributed to 26 communities across Richland County.

○ Mobile hotspots + monthly internet access will be available to at least 100,000 SC families with priority given to households in counties with a school district having a poverty rate of 86%, as defined by the SC Department of Education. (WIS)

○ The SC Department of Employment and Workforce announced an extended benefits program of up to 10 weeks of benefits available for individuals whose regular unemployment benefits ended on or after June 14. If approved, individuals can receive the previously determined amount of regular weekly unemployment insurance benefits + $600 in federal benefits. (CRBR)

PrivaChef, a service that connects chefs to clients looking for in-home dinner parties, was created by two Soda Citizens as a concept that could keep chefs working in a safe and smaller setting during the coronavirus. Chefs are hired to work from the homes of clients looking to serve parties of up to eight guests. Those interested can book online or via phone. (Cola Daily)

The Columbia Chamber has compiled a list of resources, which will continue to be updated as more information is available, for businesses navigating the coronavirus pandemic. Check out the resources here.

The One SC Fundestablished by the Central Carolina Community Foundationhas been activated and is accepting donations to support statewide COVID-19 relief efforts. Dominion Energy announced a $125,000 donation to the fund yesterday.  

A local nonprofit has created a relief fund to help S.C. musicians. The Christopher Conner Foundation board voted to move funds from the scholarship fund, to provide $500 grants to qualifying applicants, after a decline in applications for scholarships. (WACH Fox) 

○ DHEC has created an activity book, titled “Why Can’t I”, to help young children understand the effects of COVID-19. The book includes coloring activities and explanations of why everyone needs to wash their hands, stay home when they don’t feel well + cover their coughs. Download the book here.

South Carolina airports received over $97 million in funding from the FFA, as a part of the CARES act. The funds will be split between six airports across the state – including Columbia Metropolitan Airport (CAE), which will receive nearly $9 million. (WLTX)

○ One Columbia announced an Artist Emergency Fund of $100,000 to provide relief for Columbia-area artists. The fund was developed in partnership with One Columbia, the Central Carolina Community Foundation + the Knight Foundation. Applications opened May 8 for the 40 $2,500 grants.

○ The Nickelodeon Theatre launched its Virtual Screening Room an option for indie film lovers to watch movies that aren’t available on other platforms from their own homes. Check out The Nick’s website for more information on films and showtimes.

○ Customers of Dominion Energy can schedule a free, contactless appliance pickup. The older, unused, or secondary refrigerators and freezers collected will be recycled through the company’s appliance recycling program. To schedule a pickup visit the website or call 877-510-7234. (Metro Columbia CEO)

 ○ The SC Department of Mental Health released a toll-free number for those who speak Spanish. The anonymous Spanish support line is available Monday – Friday from 9:30 a.m. – 8 p.m., with the exception of state holidays. (Cola Daily)

Beginning today, UofSC will offer saliva-based testing to students and faculty. The testing will allow for rapid results, usually within 24 hours. UofSC is currently the only school in the state to offer this method of COVID-19 testing. (Cola Daily)

○ UofSC’s COVID-19 dashboard is now live. The website reports current conditions on campus and shows a breakdown of total cases. (UofSC)

○ The South Carolina Bar + South Carolina Legal Services have partnered to create a hotline service that is available to state residents facing evictions or other housing-related legal issues due to the coronavirus. The toll-free hotline can be reached at 1-833-958-2266. Callers are asked to leave a message with details about the help requested + contact information. (CRBR)

Looking for a free COVID-19 test this week? Check out this list of numerous free testing locations throughout the Midlands. (WLTX)

Due to the increased risk of the flu this year, Prisma Health has launched a campaign to reduce the cost of flu vaccines. The Richland Hospital-based COVID-19 testing site will begin offering flu shots. There will also be a variety of locations offering free flu shots; check out the list of locations here. (ABC Columbia)

○ All South Carolina students will receive free breakfast + lunch through the end of 2020 due to an extension of the USDA’s summer food service program waiver. Families do not have to meet specific requirements and meals will be distributed through curbside pick-up or drop off at predetermined locations. (WLTX)

○ The City of Columbia has launched the Resilient Columbia CARES Act Revolving Loan Fund (RLF) Program from the $2.9 million in funding. The loan application + required checklist cover page are available on the Resilient Columbia website. (Metro Columbia CEO)

Last week, DHEC launched a new dashboard that features key indicators in a user friendly, at-a-glance view of several data elements from COVID-19 in South Carolina, including rate of cases per 100,000, percent positive, deaths by date, + hospitalizations. The data can also be viewed for the current day, previous day, and previous 14 days.

Business and Employment Resources 

South Carolina is receiving $14.3 million in funding for gap financing for small businesses and entrepreneurs from the US Department of Commerce. The City of Columbia will receive $2.9 million of this to deliver in grants. (CRBR)

The SC Department of Employment and Workforce has created a new online hub with resources for workers whose employment has been affected by COVID-19. 

If you are out of work due to the pandemic, you can use this link to file for unemployment.

Business owners should be on the lookout for attempted fraud. Scammers have been attempting to take advantage of the COVID-19 outbreak, and have reportedly been reaching out to businesses while posing as representatives of Dominion Energy. (CRBJ) 

SC Gov. Henry McMaster issued Executive Order 2020-22, which allows furloughed employees to receive “COVID-19 Support Payments” from their employers and still qualify for unemployment benefits.

SC Department of Employment and Workforce will begin highlighting the top ‘life boat’ jobs in the state each week. A ‘life boat’ job is a position that an individual, with specific experience, can quickly transition into to achieve financial stability. (WLTX)

○ Renters assistance is now available through SC Thrive to those who were collecting Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation. Applications are now being accepted and those who qualify will receive a one time payment to their property owners of up to $1,500. (CRBR)

○ SC Department of Employment and Workforce announced that SC was approved for the Lost Wages Assistance program. Eligible claimants can receive an additional $300 per week. (WLTX)

○ DHEC has launched a new COVID-19 pledge project, Stay SC Strong, to encourage the business community to practice safe habits during the pandemic. When businesses sign the pledge, they’ll receive a social media graphic announcing their pledge to fight COVID-19.

Accelerate SC launched a new dashboard on its website to provide the latest data about economic revitalization efforts, COVID-19 statistics and more. The dashboard includes current information topics, including the Employment, Education, Business, Economy, Social Impact, COVID-19 Impact and CARES Act Funds.

Educational Resources 

○ The SC Department of Education has released a new website to provide information and resources encouraging social emotional learning for students and teachers. The website has lessons available for elementary, middle and high school level students + online training for teachers. (CRBR)

The SC Department of Education announced a virtual training available on a first come, first serve basis for principals and teachers. The training for teaching in a virtual setting is funded for up to 6,000 educators through the CARES Act. (Metro Columbia CEO)

EdVenture Children’s Museum is offering educational programs, including videos and downloadable activities, for children to do at home. New resources will be posted to their website each day. (WLTX)

Scholastic is offering free programs through its “Learn at Home” websitefor children during school closures. The website caters to children from pre-k to sixth grade and higher and currently has five days of lessons and 15 more days on the way. Students can register on the website for free access from any device.

In an effort to help balance virtual learning and working from home, CoCreate Lexington, a female-focused coworking space, is launching CoCreate Academy, a safe learning environment for children. Children will be supervised by a teacher and be in small groups, which will meet twice a week for 3.5 hours. One parent of participating children will receive a CoCreate Lexington membership.

Yesterday morning, Gov. Henry McMaster announced the state’s plan to use SCETV’s television signal to deliver school lessons to students without broadband internet access through a process called datacasting. The plan is intended to broaden accessibility until broadband access can be expanded across the state. (WLTX)

○ Richland School District Two resumed free meals for students earlier this week. Meals are available through eight curbside pickup locations and four bus routes. Find more location and time information here. (Cola Daily)

Students in Lexington School District Two can now receive weekend meals for free beginning on Oct. 1 through the end of 2020. The meals are available to students who are in the hybrid or full-time virtual academy and include breakfast and lunch. (WLTX)

Senior Resources 

Senior Resources will begin distribution for the Seeds of Hope voucher program. Senior citizens in Richland County who registered + qualified will need to pick-up their vouchers at the distribution locations listed by zip code. This will be a drive-up service and participants will not need to leave their cars.

○ The Original Blue Ribbon Taxi Company is providing free rides to seniors living in lower income communities who are going to doctors appointments, grocery stores or the pharmacy. You must be over 60 years old and live in the city Columbia to receive a free ride. (WLTX

Lexington County Recreation and Aging Commission is offering free + lower priced meal delivery through their Meals on Wheels program. Seniors living in Lexington County, who are unable to cook for themselves, can qualify for five meals a week. (The State) 

Health Care Resources

CDC Resources

World Health Organization Resources

○ BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina, South Carolina Hospital Association and South Carolina Medical Association have created the ‘Slow the Spread’ public service campaign in an effort to encourage the public to limit exposure COVID-19. The Slow the Spread website will be updated with resources and recommendations from the CDC. (Metro Columbia CEO)

○ For the health and safety of all patients and staff, Lexington Medical Center is strongly encouraging everyone to avoid visiting a Lexington Medical Center facility unless they have a personal health care need. See the four ways to enter Lexington Medical Center and other need-to-know info here.

Anyone in South Carolina who has COVID-19-like symptoms can use MUSC Health’s Virtual Care system for free by using the promo code COVID19.

○ Providence Hospital is accepting donations of unused, handmade personal protective equipment. To help prepare for an increase in demand, the hospital is accepting disposable masks, gloves and gowns, including the N95 respirators, goggles or face shields, and hand sanitizer. (WACH FOX)

Planning to utilize one of the drive-thru coronavirus testing sites? Here’s what you need to know before you go. (The State)

A new, free COVID-19 testing site is now open at Bluff Road Park. The drive-thru site sends results in 24-48 hours + is open Monday-Saturday from 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Appointments aren’t necessary. (Cola Daily)

According to new guidance released by DHEC earlier this week, most individuals, especially those who are frequently around others, are encouraged to get tested for coronavirus once a month. Read more about the new suggestions here. (The State)

Fairfield COVID-19 Taskforce is offering a CT scan for diagnosing the coronavirus with results within 24 hours. CT scans are now recommended by the World Health Organization, as the ‘nose swab’ tests can be delayed. Read more about the taskforce here.

CVS will expand its COVID-19 testing services to include rapid-result testing at various locations, including some in South Carolina. Find a location near you here. (ABC Columbia)

Beginning this week, Kroger Pharmacies will offer rapid COVID-19 antibody tests.Tests are open to those who may have been infected and currently not experiencing symptoms. Rapid tests will be $25 and appointments can be made here. (WLTX)

Community Conversations

5 easy ways to give back to the community

Quarantine date night ideas

How 6 Richland County manufacturers are giving back

Senior grocery resources in Columbia

COVID-19’s impact on travel and tourism in Columbia, SC

7 local businesses with immune boosting products

Mental health tips + resources in Columbia

Companies hiring ASAP in Columbia

SC COVID-19 unemployment numbers

City of Columbia mandatory mask ordinance

COLAtoday talks coronavirus testing

Back-To-School in the Midlands 

SC State Fair: the drive-thru edition

Join our pen pal program, Columbia 

Coronavirus changes on the University of South Carolina campus

2020 College Football Season Updates

Columbia’s outdoor venues are ready to rock

Learning pods pop up in Cola

A travel update from Columbia Metropolitan Airport (CAE) during COVID-19

Gameday in Columbia (2020 edition)

A COVID- conscious live music venue is coming to Columbia

2020 Edition of Vista Lights Columbia, SC