Major Local Announcements
○ Gov. Henry McMaster and SCDHEC announced that all South Carolinians aged 16 and older will be eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine beginning Wed., March 31 + can begin scheduling appointments the same day. Currently, only the Pfizer vaccine is available to those aged 16-18. Find a vaccine provider near you.
○ Richland County Council has voted to extend the face mask ordinance, which requires those 10 years or older to wear face coverings. The ordinance is now scheduled to expire on June 5.
○ West Columbia City Council voted to extend its face mask ordinance through May 1. 😷 (WLTX)
○ Prisma Health has extended visitation hours including overnight stays. Visitors will still only be allowed in one at a time. (WLTX)
○ Last week, DHEC released new guidelines for nursing home and assisted living facility visitation policies. Facilities are now required to allow visitation at all times for all residents; however, indoor visitation can be limited in certain circumstances, including unvaccinated residents and those in quarantine.
○ DHEC announced it updated the distribution plan for COVID-19 vaccine doses. A new state law requires DHEC to base its vaccine distribution on the public health region population and the region’s demographics. The Midlands is currently leading all regions with 29% of the vaccine doses. (WIS)
○ Gov. Henry McMaster announced that effective, March 1, restaurants may resume normal alcohol sales — ie. no more “last call” order. The press release also stated that events involving more than 250 people will no longer require approval from the SC Department of Commerce. (The State)
○ Lexington Medical Center has updated its visitation policy to allow two visitors per day for non-COVID inpatients. Visitation is allowed between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. seven days a week and visitors must be 18+. See additional details here. (WIS)
○ DHEC launched a new online resource this week to provide information about the demographics of those who have received the COVID-19 vaccine. The dashboard is updated daily and includes the age group, gender, race, and ethnicity based on the information that is recorded by the providers for the people they are vaccinating in South Carolina.
○ 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.
Schedule Changes + Closures
○ The Fireflies announced ticketing plans for the 2021 season, which include a 50% capacity (approx. 5,000 fans per game) at the start of the season, sections of socially distanced seating pods and sections with regular capacity, and ticket availability on a month-to-month basis.
○ Gov. Henry McMaster + Congaree Golf Club announced that the Palmetto Championship at Congaree — a PGA TOUR event — will take place June 7-13 in Ridgeland. The official FedExCup event will field 156 golfers and fills a week left open on the tour’s calendar following the cancellation of the 2021 RBC Canadian Open due to the coronavirus pandemic. ⛳ (WCIV)
○ The Gilbert Peach Festival will not take place during the Fourth of July weekend, according to officials from the Gilbert Community Club. This is the second year the festival has been cancelled due to COVID-19 safety concerns and is expected to return in 2022. (Cola Daily)
○ The Township Auditorium has rescheduled the Travis Tritt show, which was originally scheduled for May 21, 2020 and initially rescheduled to May 6, 2021, to Nov. 20, 2021. Previously purchased tickets will be valid + refunds will be available through April 2. Purchase tickets here. 🎟️
○ The Columbia R&B Fest featuring artists Keith Sweat + Brian McKnight has been rescheduled for Sat., Oct. 23. Tickets will be honored for the new date + the lineup is subject to change. 🎟️
Community Resources + Support
○ Lexington County will begin offering financial assistance for rent, mortgage, and utilities for up to 6 months. Those who have faced financial difficulties due to the COVID-19 pandemic + meet income requirements are eligible for the assistance. Find more information here. (WLTX)
○ The South Carolina Housing Finance and Development Authority announced a first-time homebuyer program for qualified COVID-19 frontline workers. SC Housing has reserved $50 million for the program that will provide up to $12,000 for down payment assistance. View the qualifications and application here. (The State)
○ The City of Columbia is reopening its community centers and pools after closing last year for COVID-19. Community centers, including the Drew Wellness Center and its indoor pool, will reopen May 3 + outdoor pools will open Memorial Day weekend. 🏊♀️ (The State)
○ Richland Library is expanding services to include limited indoor computer usage + limited indoor browsing from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. and 2-6 p.m. Monday-Saturday at the Ballentine (1200 Dutch Fork Rd., Irmo), North Main (5306 North Main St.) and St. Andrews (2916 Broad River Rd.) locations. 🖥️
○ Through a partnership with Richland County Councilmembers Chakisse Newton, Cheryl English and Jesica Mackey, Richland Library is offering disposable face masks at four locations (Eastover, Lower Richland, Sandhills, and Southeast) to those utilizing the library’s services. The masks are available on a first come, first served basis.
○ South Carolinians who are struggling to pay their rent or mortgage due to the COVID-19 pandemic can now apply for assistance through SC Housing. The program has $25 million available to those in need. Find more application details here. (WIS)
○ DHEC launched a new hotline, with 240 operators, to help answer questions about COVID-19 vaccines. The phone line will operate daily from 7 a.m.-7 p.m. and is available by calling (866) 365-8110. (WIS)
○ The COMET is launching a coronavirus vaccine campaign, “Don’t Miss Your Shot”, which is aimed to provide free transportation for those who are eligible to major vaccination sites in Richland and Lexington counties. In addition to The COMET bus routes, there are three other programs to serve those with disabilities needing transportation, including DART, PUP, and V-TRIP. (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.
○ 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)
○ 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)
○ 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)
Business and Employment Resources
○ $100,000. The amount that small businesses and nonprofits can apply for through the Southern Opportunity and Resilience Fund, which is a COVID-19 relief initiative that raised $150 million for 15 states, including South Carolina. The application opens in April and will offer flexible loans to companies with less than 50 full-time employees. (CRBR)
○ SC Department of Employment and Workforce has released a new app that will allow users to certify weekly unemployment claims + monitor the claim status. The app is free and can also be used to track payment history and previous correspondence. To download the resource, search “SC DEW” in your phone’s mobile app store. (CRBR)
○ The Paycheck Protection Program reopened for those that missed the last round of funding + specific current borrowers. The federal program is attempting to support small business by providing funding to cover 10 weeks of payroll to prevent layoffs and restaurants will also be eligible to apply for payroll coverage up to 15 weeks. (Post and Courier)
○ The SC Department of Employment and Workforce has created an 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.
○ 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.
○ 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)
○ The University of South Carolina announced its plan to resume normal campus operations this fall, including normal activities like full-time, face-to-face classes and football. The university will continue implementing appropriate COVID-19 precautions, on-campus COVID-19 testing, and other measures based on public health guidance. (Post and Courier)
○ Beginning April 19, Lexington One will start removing plexiglass dividers on classroom desks. According to the district, it currently has a low number of positive cases + will continue to require face masks and social distancing. (The State)
○ After being denied a federal testing waiver, South Carolina school districts will be required to administer end-of-year testing to students. However, there will not be penalties for students declining to take the exams and testing scores will not affect teacher evaluations. 📝 (The State)
○ 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)
○ 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.
Health Care Resources
○ World Health Organization Resources
○ Columbia Place Mall will be used for a Community Vaccination Center this month to administer approx. 1,000 shots every day through a partnership with the State of South Carolina and the White House. The site is expected to be up and running by Wed., April 14. (WLTX)
○ Lexington Medical Center is now accepting walk-ins for COVID-19 vaccinations at the hospital auditorium (2728 Sunset Blvd., West Columbia) and at the Brookland Baptist Church (1066 Sunset Blvd., West Columbia) vaccination event from 7 a.m.-5 p.m. The Pfizer vaccine is available at both locations to those 16 or older. (Cola Daily)
○ Sixteen and 17-year-olds who are looking to schedule a Pfizer vaccine appointment through Prisma Health will have to call the COVID-19 hotline instead of using MyChart. Vaccine appointments are available at Gamecock Park. (ABC Columbia)
○ For those eligible for Phase 1A or 1B, Lexington Medical Center still has several vaccine appointments available. Register here. Ⓟ 💉
○ After the rollout of Phase 1B, Nephron Pharmaceuticals’ drive-thru vaccine site in West Columbia (open Mon.-Fri., 10 a.m.-3 p.m.) has continued to see an increase in patients lining up to get their Moderna shots. Call 803-381-1045 to set up an appointment. Ⓟ
○ If I’ve had COVID-19, do I still need the vaccine? Here’s the answer from Dr. Leah Clanton of Lexington Medical Center. 💉 Ⓟ
○ Ralph H. asked, “What does it mean when the CDC says the COVID vaccine is 95% effective?” Here’s the answer from Dr. Anna Lim-Kates of Spring Valley Family Medicine in NE Columbia.❓Ⓟ
○ Bill Kelly, MD, addresses what it’s like to get the vaccine and other common questions you may have. Ⓟ
○ The COVID-19 vaccine is now available, but what should you do if you are pregnant, considering pregnancy or nursing? Kacey Eichelberger, MD, shares what you need to know. 💉 Ⓟ
○ According to DHEC, most individuals, especially those who are frequently around others, are encouraged to get tested for coronavirus once a month. Read more about their suggestions here. (The State)
○ Vaccine Phase 1b — what does it mean?
○ The need-to-know on COVID-19 vaccines in South Carolina
○ Development update on Nephron Pharmaceuticals’ expansion
○ COVID-19’s impact on travel and tourism in Columbia, SC
○ 7 local businesses with immune boosting products
○ Mental health tips + resources in Columbia