Leaders from both Laurens County School Districts 55 and 56 have chosen to return to remote learning following the Christmas holidays due to a continuing surge locally in cases of COVID-19.
The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) reported Tuesday that Laurens County has recorded 671 positive cases over the past two weeks, bringing the total number of positive cases to 3,864 with 85 related deaths since the beginning of the pandemic.
In a statement this past week, Prisma Health officials announced that COVID-19 hospitals in other areas of the Upstate could be transferred to Prisma’s Laurens County Hospital due to a recent spike in cases and hospitalizations as well as staffing shortages caused by the novel coronavirus.
Prisma made the announcement of a “step-down unit” at Laurens Tuesday afternoon. The two-tiered system is designed to alleviate strain on other Prisma hospitals in Greenville and the surrounding area.
“We have to get this to plateau,” Prisma President and CEO Mark O’Halla said. If cases continue to rise, he said, “we are going to be in some really challenging circumstances that we just don’t want to get to.”
DHEC reported 49 new cases Sunday and 57 on Saturday.
The school districts were supposed to return to in-person classes on Jan. 4. District 55 is set to return to the physical classroom on Monday, Jan. 11, while District 56 will continue virtual classes through next week (Jan. 15).
“Due to the rise in (COVID-19) cases in our community and quarantines among our staff, District 56 has made the decision to move to virtual learning form Jan. 4-Jan. 15,” district officials said in a release. “Students will return to face-to-face instruction after the Martin Luther King holiday on Jan. 19.”
Both districts will continue with lunch pickups while students take part in e-learning.
Laurens County also announced Sunday that its Probate Court offices will be closed at least through the end of this week due to COVID-19 exposures. County officials said they hope to reopen court on Jan. 11.
“The Probate Court staff will be contacting individuals with appointments and assisting them in the rescheduling efforts as soon as possible,” a release from county officials read.