Coronavirus, News

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

Coronavirus I Image via @6AMCity

Major Local Announcements

○ EdVenture Children’s Museum is scheduled to reopen on July 14 with new safety precautions in place, including extra cleaning and social distancing. All staff, interns and guests over the age of three will be required to wear a mask. (WIS)

The South Carolina Railroad Museum will reopen to passengers for summer train rides beginning Saturday, July 11. Added safety precautions include all trains running at 50% capacity with increased sanitation cleanings + all volunteer staff will wear face masks. Passenger face masks are not required, but highly encouraged. The gift shop, self-guided tours through stationary trains and display rooms will remain closed to the public until further notice. 

Gov. Henry McMaster confirmed that theaters, night clubs, concert halls and spectator sport venues will stay closed as COVID-19 cases continue to rise. Additionally, assisted living + nursing homes were permitted to allow limited visitation for immediate family members of residents. (CRBR)

City of Columbia will distribute masks to high risk and vulnerable citizens at several locations. Two masks a person or five per family will be available + distributions will run through July 10. (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.

Richland 1, Richland 2 and Lexington-Richland 5 school districts have announced that all summer workouts have been postponed. New start dates have not been set by any of the three districts. (The State)

After successfully processing holds for over 2,000 customers, Richland Library announced it will expand its limited services. Customers will be able to request new materials over the phone and online and pick them up at any location with a pick-up window (Ballentine, Northeast, Sandhills + St. Andrews). The library will also begin accepting returns at book drop-offs at any library location.

South Carolina State Museum is now in phase two of its reopening plan to allow more exhibits and gallery spaces to be available to guests. Currently, museum hours are Tuesday-Sunday from 10 a.m.-10 p.m. All guests over the age of 10 will be required to wear masks.

○ 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.

Protesters, who attended any events at the State House from May 30 – June 17, are strongly encouraged to get tested for COVID-19 after organizers + participants have tested positive. The recent spike in cases has caused organizers to postpone some future events. (The State)

Phase four of the Columbia Parks and Recreation Department’s reopening plan has been delayed due to the recent spike in coronavirus cases. The plan includes opening community centers, neighborhood centers, the Columbia Art Center + more. A new date hasn’t been set yet. (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 is running on a Saturday schedule. Use will be available for essential travel + users are asked to practice social distancing and to enter and exit through the rear door of the bus. Riders are required to wear face masks while riding the bus or using COMET facilities. 

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.

○ The West Columbia Riverwalk Park and Amphitheater has re-opened to the public

Congaree National Park has entered phase two of reopening. The park reopened the front-country trails, parking lot and picnic shelter. Social distancing guidelines remain in place. (WLTX)

○ UofSC has modified its schedule for the upcoming fall semester. While the university is planning to hold in-person classes beginning in August, fall break will be canceled and classes will be held on Labor Day. Students will not return to campus after Thanksgiving break + final exams will be held virtually. The school is also requiring masks to be worn in classrooms, the Russell House + more. (The State)

All students, faculty + staff will now be required to be tested for COVID-19 before returning to campus at UofSC. President Caslen also announced the school will use contact tracing to help prevent the virus’ spread on campus. (WIS)

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)

Historic Columbia gardens have reopened to the public. Visitors will be required to socially distance while viewing the gardens and additional safety measures will be in place. 

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. The bill will need to be signed by the governor to go into effect. (WIS)

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)

○ Gov. Henry McMaster announced that the state’s income tax filing deadline had been extended to July 15. The decision mimics changes that were made at the federal level, which set the federal income tax filing due date to July 15. (FOX Carolina) 

The deadline to get a Real ID has been postponed. The ID will eventually be required to board domestic flights. Oct. 1 was the original deadline; there is no official word on the new date. (The State) 

Schedule Changes + Closures

○ Major League Baseball and Minor League Baseball have officially announced the cancellation of the 2020 Minor League Baseball season, which means the Columbia Fireflies season has been canceled. 

○ UofSC has tentatively rescheduled an in-person graduation ceremony for spring and summer graduates on August 8. The ceremony will be held at Williams Brice, graduates will be allowed two guests, who they’ll have to sit with + everyone will be required to wear a face mask. However, the university may cancel the ceremony depending on infection rates through July. (The State)

○ Columbia Fashion Weekoriginally scheduled for August 13-15has been cancelled for 2020 due to the coronavirus. The event is now being planned for summer 2021. (WIS)

○ 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.

Historic Columbia closed visitation until further notice to its historic house museums, including Robert Mills House, Hampton-Preston Mansion, the Museum of Reconstruction at Woodrow Wilson Family Home, and the Mann-Simons Site. During this closure, the house museums are not open to visitors or researchers. Any scheduled school + group visits are canceled

Alabama has rescheduled its 50th anniversary tour show, previously scheduled for July 10, at Colonial Life Arena to April 24, 2021.

○ The Columbia Food and Wine Festival, hosted by the Free Times, has been postponed to August 20-23. (Post and Courier) 

The Columbia Food and Wine Festival organizers announced that the 2020 event will be redeveloped to include two outdoor, seated dining experiences – an outdoor dinner on Saturday, August 22 at 7:30 p.m. and an outdoor brunch on Sunday, August 23 at 11:00 a.m. Both events will be held at the Hampton-Preston Mansion and the Robert Mills House and have zoned seating for 100 guests. At each event, attendees will be served a four-course meal prepared by a team of three-four chefs. 

The Reggaetronic Music Festival, held annually on Lake Murray, has been rescheduled to July 25 from June 13. VIP ticket information can be found here. (Cola Daily)

The Soda City Comic Con, which was set for August 22-23, has been cancelled due to coronavirus concerns. Refunds will be issued to those who purchased tickets. (WIS)

Community Resources + Support

○ 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.

○ 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)

SC students who were enrolled in free or reduced-rate lunches when schools went online in March will receive federal food assistance equaling $330. The assistance will come from a Pandemic EBT program that the US Department of Agriculture has set up. SC DSS and the Department of Education and working to identify these families to avoid the application process. (WIS) 

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.

○ Richland One School District is providing free meals to students for pick-up throughout the summer. Nutritious breakfast and lunches can be picked up from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. at select locations. The program will run through July 30. Find more information on locations and times 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)

○ The Sunshine House Early Learning Academy announced they are participating in South Carolina’s new Childcare Assistance Program + will be providing discounted childcare to essential workers. There are eight locations in the Midlands and the program is scheduled to last until the end of August, unless the state extends the program.

○ 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 open May 8 for the 40 $2,500 grants.

Sylvan Learning Center in Columbia + Irmo have announced virtual camp dates for July. The weekly online camps include subjects from writing, coding and college reading strategies for a variety of grade levels. (Columbia Metro CEO)

Business and Employment Resources

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.

Educational Resources

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)

○ Riverbanks Zoo and Garden is offering Z-learning to children and families. The program occurs each weekday at 10 a.m. through Facebook Live and other interactions. (WIS)

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.

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)

Community Conversations

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

7 local businesses with immune boosting products

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Happy campers this summer

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SC COVID-19 unemployment numbers

City of Columbia mandatory mask ordinance

COLAtoday talks coronavirus testing