COVID-19 information and data related to Jasper County (updated every Friday)
UPDATE: April 2, 2021
As we head into the Spring break, we are making good progress with staff/faculty vaccinations now, and the school environment has remained safe and secure these past several weeks. A potential threat is looming in the form of the UK COVID variant B.1.1.7, now accounting for 30% of infections across the U.S.. It’s more aggressively infectious character, with more serious illness affecting younger age groups, is being felt in Michigan, e.g., where COVID cases have tripled over the past few weeks. We know this variant form is present now in our region of the state, and will likely dominate whatever surge awaits us. As difficult as it must seem to face another wave of infections, we need the patience to stay with masking, distancing and had-washing for the time being. It should be noted that our community has done well in recognizing our obligation in protecting others, particular those most vulnerable, by standing firm against those who downplay the threat and so put the rest of us at risk.
Happy Spring break and a Happy, safe Easter to all.
UPDATE: March 5, 2021
We have had a busy week managing real and suspected cases of COVID infection in our testing/guidance facility, but we can report a perfect record in preventing access of anyone potentially infected to the school environment with our present strategy. We have to this point seen no in-school spread of infection.
Vaccination scheduling will begin this week for staff and teachers as part of phase 1b. Parenthetically, if you are over 55 and have co-morbities, you are eligible to participate, as well,.
One important caution as we see infection rates subsiding further: you will see that governors in at least two states have lifted masking requirements and are opening public gathering places without restriction. This is not just wrong-headed and irresponsible; it will once again put those at highest risk of serious illness in harm’s way. Experts now warn that the present lull in case rates is likely the calm before the storm. The appearance of several new variants of the virus is expected to result in another surge in infections within weeks; if so, relaxing precautionary measures only allows the virus to spread more rapidly and more widely. The result might well erase all the gains we have made to this point, and lead to more unnecessary deaths. We urge you to stay patient with the precautionary process until the vaccination rollout reaches more members of the community and we achieve higher levels of immunity.
UPDATE: March 1, 2021
COVID infection rates have declined significantly across the state these past two weeks with the exception of Allendale and Barnwell counties. We remain alert to the possibility we will see a resurgence with the appearance of several new variants of the virus which are more infectious, so continuing mask and distancing precautions remains of paramount importance. I am happy to report that our school district’s testing/guidance protocols have been successful in preventing any introduction or spread of the virus in our school environment so far - thanks to all for your participation in this important strategy to keep schools open and safe.
UPDATE: February 12, 2021
While there has been some decline in COVID case rates these past two weeks we are still experiencing significant levels of new cases and test positivity rates, as expected.
STAFF, FACULTY AND PARENTS: Quarantine periods and return to school authorizations are now regulated by our COVID protocols, as per CDC and DHEC guidance. Test results, positive or negative, activate the protocol appropriate to your particular circumstances. Our COVID nurse, Ms. Gizelle Bradshaw, conducts rapid testing at our JCAP facility; if your situation requires PCR testing, you be referred to the Coastal Carolina Hospital test facility. In either case, Ms. Bradshaw will guide you through the appropriate steps. You will be screened by her prior to allowing your return to work/school in order to document compliance with protocol requirements. THIS IS HOW WE CAN BEST PROTECT THE SCHOOL ENVIRONMENT AND OTHER EMPLOYEES AND STUDENTS. No exceptions are permitted.
Remember - schools are safe because we keep potential spreaders out, and because we enforce precautions strictly. And, the more you practice masking and distancing outside of school the safer all of us are.
UPDATE: February 5, 2021
COVID case rates have fallen significantly across the state, and in Jasper County, at least a brief respite from the post-Holiday surge.
Three important cautions:
1. This does not mean the virus is under control; quite the contrary. The easing of infection rates means only that we are returning to the levels we saw before the recent surge.
2. This is not the result of vaccination roll-out.
3. The emergence of several new COVID strains which appear to be more aggressive, combined with the coming Spring break, will certainly produce another surge, one that will challenge us again. The weather always seems calmest just before the hurricane arrives, too.
Another lesson is taught by the observation that, compared with other congregant settings, schools experience essentially no in-school spread of infection, meaning that the protective measures, simple as they may seem, are extremely effective. Unprotected social and congregant settings will continue to be our principal sources of spread, and the major threat to keeping schools open.
Finally, your participation in the vaccination program is crucial to ending the pandemic. Remember that our drive-up JCAP test center provides not only rapid results but also professional guidance if you are sick.
UPDATE: January 29, 2021
As we anticipate re-opening schools our planning and focus first and foremost is on the safety of your children and our faculty and staff. We know from the experience in other school districts - and many are open now - that the school environment is safe as long as we follow strict guidelines:
1. Students or faculty/staff who have symptoms suggesting COVID infection must be tested as soon as possible. Our testing facility on Grays Highway is open every day from 8 AM until 4 PM, staffed by a highly qualified RN professional who will guide you through the process. Our testing is highly accurate, provides an answer in 15 minutes while you wait.
2. If your test indicates you have COVID: our nurse specialist will discuss how to proceed from there, and answer any questions and concerns you will have. We will ask you to name those with whom you have been in contact so we can inform them of their exposure and begin their quarantining before they expose others. THIS PROCESS IS COMPLETELY CONFIDENTIAL - names of those exposed are NOT shared or revealed.
3. Our school facilities are fully compliant with the highest safety standards provided by DHEC and by the Department of Education.
4. Our biggest threat is not the school environment - COVID comes to school with those who bring it. We have to share the responsibility to see re-opening succeed, so: masking, hand-washing, distancing will continue to be what we need the community to do to assure our success.
UPDATE: January 22, 2021
The COVID case rate in the County remains at a high level. We again urge anyone who develops what they think might be COVID symptoms to go to our rapid testing site (JCAP building on Grays Hwy) as soon as possible - no appointment necessary - to be sure you get appropriate care, and to help us contain the possible spread of infection to others. We are learning that much of the COVID illness we are seeing still comes from failing to wear masks in close indoor work situations, and from failure to distance. All of the cases in students and staff have been brought into the school setting from community contacts. Our testing program is intended to prevent further spread within the school environment itself. Please bear in mind that we can keep schools open if we all take our share of responsibility in this effort. “Spread the word, not the virus”!
UPDATE: January 15, 2021
JCSD Announces Opening of District Testing Site
UPDATE: January 8, 2021
Two important updates: first, as expected, we are seeing a significant rise in COVID case rates, and our test positivity numbers are now on a par with the rest of the State. In view of these developments, the timing of school re-opening will likely be delayed, if only briefly, until we can get our rapid testing program up and running to safeguard the start-up. We expect that testing facility to be operational within two weeks. In locating it at an off-campus site, the old high school building (now JCAP) on Grays Highway, we can avoid bringing potentially sick individuals into the school setting. The process is structured to provide maximum convenience, efficiency and confidentiality; no appointments necessary, drive-up testing in your car, results available while you wait, within 15 minutes. Importantly, this approach will allow us to start contact tracing immediately, before those contacts can spread the virus further. We know this approach will make it possible to get our kids back to school safely. We know, based on others’ experience, that this kind of approach has essentially eliminated in-school transmission of the virus.The program will be organized and managed by Ms. Gizelle Bradshaw, an RN with extensive experience in both pediatric and adult medicine, as well as public health. We expect to be able to extend our testing capability to Hardeeville once our Ridgeland site is operational.
Finally, our success in a venture that is acutely aware of the need to get kids back to school, on the one hand, and that must protect the safety of our kids and school staff, depends on our community at large having confidence in and participating in the process. “Spread the word, not the virus!"
UPDATE: December 31, 2020
COVID-19 cases have increased by 50% in lowcountry S.C. this past month, a trend that is expected to continue for the next several weeks. About 9% of these cases are school-aged children - that percentage has not changed significantly. While the largest number of COVID deaths occur in those over 65 (they account for about 80% of deaths), there has been a dramatic increase in deaths among US adults ages 25 to 44, as well. Importantly, according to the CDC, Black and Hispanic people make up not just a disproportionate number of cases but a majority of COVID-19 deaths in this age group. The idea of risk, then, applies to ALL of us. We will supplement our efforts to control spread of the virus with a rapid testing program for those with symptoms - results in 15 minutes - to allow sure identification of those infected, and to identify contacts before further spread occurs. Particulars concerning the testing program - location, schedules, etc, - will be posted at our next update, Friday, Jan. 8. Awareness and implementation of this testing approach bring us one step closer to returning our kids to school. All that said, we also know that as much science as we can bring to bear on this problem, it is not in itself sufficient. Now abundant experience teaches that mask-wearing, distancing, limiting indoor gatherings, etc remain the most effective means of blunting another surge in cases.
Finally, the initial round of vaccinations is now underway, specifically for phase 1a individuals - healthcare workers, long term care facility residents and staff. The next phase, 1b, is expected to include teachers and school staff. We will provide updates on specifics as they become available.
We all pray, finally, for a healthy Happy New Year.
UPDATE: December 24, 2020
Covid case rates will continue to increase through the Holidays as the result of travel and gatherings; establishing a readily accessible rapid testing becomes, accordingly, critical in limiting further spread of the virus. The timing and feasibility of school re-opening will depend on how effective we can be in early case recognition and contact tracing. It will take until the third week of January before we will know the full effect of the continuing surge in Jasper County. In the meantime, particulars relating to the testing process, and location of and access to our testing site on Grays Highway will be provided in next week’s update, Thursday, December 31. We anticipate that facility will begin operations no later than January 11.
UPDATE: December 18, 2020
Over the past week Jasper County has experienced a sharp increase in Covid cases - about a 50% rise in 7 days - not unexpected, and consistent with numbers from all areas of the state. This is the biggest surge we have seen here since the pandemic began, and unfortunately almost certain to be further worsened by the coming post-Christmas surge. Accordingly, the delay in-school learning will remain in place at least until January 20. All must understand we are entering a period of very high risk. WEAR YOUR MASK AND BE SURE TO DISTANCE. By this time next week (we will post our next update THURSDAY DEC 24) we will share our plan for student/faculty rapid Covid testing testing, to start soon after January 1. Even though all students will be in the virtual learning program, it is important that anyone experiencing potential Covid symptoms - particularly shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, cough, loss of taste or smell, temperature of 100.4 degrees or higher - come to a testing site as soon as possible. Younger children may have milder symptoms, including runny nose, sore throat, or stomach upset and diarrhea. Anyone who develops symptoms while in quarantine must also be tested promptly. Results of this new test are available in 15 minutes, so appropriate medical follow-up can be arranged promptly; and, it will allow us to identify contacts quickly to limit the further spread of the virus. We must assure we are doing everything possible to protect both our school community and the community at large.