(The Center Square) – The Atlantic hurricane season – which runs June 1 to Nov. 30 annually – poses an even bigger risk than usual up and down South Carolina’s shore now that coronavirus is part of the mix.
The state now has 6,757 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 283 deaths.
The concern for state and local leaders this year is two-fold. In the past, school gyms often have been used as shelters for people who are unable to evacuate and first responders, government officials and journalists often work close to each other in emergency command centers during storms.
Neither process offers the proper conditions for the social distancing needed to help stop the spread of coronavirus.
“There are so many more challenges than I’ve ever had to face because it’s still evolving,” Randy Webster, Horry County’s public safety director, told Myrtle Beach Online. “My biggest problem is we don’t have any best practices to look at.”
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency, forecasters are predicting 15-22 named storms this season, including eight to 11 hurricanes and three to five major hurricanes. A major hurricane reaches Category 3 on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale, which carries ratings of Category 1-5.
One possibility that has been discussed is using hotels and college dormitories as evacuation shelters to help people keep their distance from each other.
If evacuees are not separated enough, they face coronavirus outbreaks like the one recently reported at a state-run adult care facility in Florence, where more than 40 people have tested positive. The state Department of Disabilities and Special Needs reported 26 staff and 17 residents were sickened, with one resident dead.
Florence County overall has 336 confirmed cases, 16 deaths and the second-highest per capita rate of infection in the state, according to the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control.
While most people are doing what they can to help flatten the curve, a Sumter woman was arrested in connection with a food-licking incident.
According to police, the woman was caught on video coughing and licking her hands before touching door handles in the frozen food section of a grocery store and doing the same in the dry goods section.
Police had been looking for the woman after she was seen on video earlier doing the same thing at a sandwich shop. The manager told police she licked her fingers before handing her money to the clerk, licked her palm and touched the debit card machine and then licked several coins and put them in the tip jar.
She is being charged with aggravated breach of the peace and food tampering and was ordered to be tested for coronavirus.