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Whitten Center admin pens letter, COVID cases still on rise

Whitten Center Facility Administrator Randy Davis published a letter on the Friends of Whitten Center Facebook page this past week, outlining the severity of a COVID-19 outbreak that turned the center into a coronavirus hot spot.

The residential facility located in Clinton houses and treats mentally and physically disabled persons.

The letter, dated July 7, reported a total of 133 residents and staff members – 51 residents or consumers, 82 staff – had tested positive for COVID-19. Two consumers have died due to the illness as has one staff member, Maurice Simmons, 41, of Clinton. Two other staff members have been hospitalized.

The death total for Laurens County rose to 14 over the past week as positive case numbers across the state and county continued to climb at record levels. The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control reported 25 newly confirmed cases in Laurens County Tuesday and a total of 788 cases, up from 625 a week ago.

Statewide, the increase has grown to 60,220, an increase of more than 13,000 over last week and 2,205 more than the day before. DHEC reports that 203 of the 1,550 patients currently hospitalized for COVID-19, 203 are on ventilators. The number of South Carolinians dead of COVID-19 is nearing 1,000 with 984 confirmed.

The infection rate among those test results returned Monday was 21.5%.

Davis expressed his sympathy for the lives lost at the facility. Last week, DHEC officials announced the facility, which is run by the state Department of Disabilities and Special Needs, had been cited for failures related to COVID-19.

He also wrote in the letter that Bio-Pure, a company specializing in infection control and sanitation, went over the faicility with a “state-of-the-art sanitization process that is prove to eliminate the COVID-19 virus on all surfaces contacted.”

“Ionization devices, which kill the virus, have been added to the HVAC systems in units with the most medically fragile individuals,” he wrote. “We continue to purchase PPE (masks, gowns, gloves, face shields/goggles) to provide protection for our staff members and consumers.”

Visitation is still restricted.

Davis wrote that eight consumers have recovered from COVID-19 and others with mild systems are expected to recover soon. Some staff members who have tested positive have begun to return to work, he wrote.

As Whitten Center continues to recover from its outbreak, local schools have introduced a Virtual Learning Academy as an option for students who are not willing or able to attend traditional classes this fall.


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