Case count tops 3,200

UNC Health Southeastern Pharmacy Director Eric Locklear and Pharmacist Brett Duncan unpack the first COVID-19 vaccines at Southeastern. (Submitted)
UNC Health Southeastern Pharmacy Director Eric Locklear and Pharmacist Brett Duncan unpack the first COVID-19 vaccines at Southeastern. (Submitted)

An additional 144 COVID-19 cases this week brought the county’s total since the start of the pandemic to 3,243, with 79 deaths.

The health department’s Thursday numbers showed that only one of the 144 new cases came from an extended care home, although nursing facilities have been a major factor in the county’s infection ate almost since the beginning of the pandemic in March.

Daniel Buck of the Columbus County Health Department said two of the three latest deaths occurred in area hospitals, while the third died at home, There are currently 16 Columbus County residents hospitalized due to COVID-19, with approximately 885 active cases across the county. Recoveries stand at 2,279. 

More than 39,800 COVID-19 tests have been performed in Columbus County. 

Columbus Regional will receive its first batch of vaccines next week, according to Spokesperson Stephanie Miller. The first 300 will be administered to frontline health workers. CRHS is receiving the Moderna vaccine, Miller said.

Cape Fear Memorial at Bladen received one of the first shipments in the state Monday. The hospital is equipped with a freezer capable of storing the Pfizer vaccine, which must be kept well below freezing.

UNC Southeastern saw its first shipment arrive Thursday morning (today). The pharmacy department there will be processing and administering the vaccines at the Lumberton hospital over the next few days, spokesperson Amanda Crabtree said. Frontline workers will also be the first to receive the vaccines there.

Columbus Charter School sent 35 children home today due to possible exposure, Headmaster Steve Smith said. The children will only miss a day and a half of school, however, since Columbus Charter goes on Christmas break Friday. The school is following CDC guidelines, so the children will quarantine at home for 10 days.

“We have been fortunate,” smith said. “We have only had 18 confirmed positives in 18 weeks. That isn’t bad out of 860 students and 100 staff.”

Columbus County Schools have seen a slight rise in cases in recent days, Superintendent Deanne Meadows said. Three students and three staff members have tested positive and are quarantining at home.

“We are just praying that everyone maintains the three Ws while on break so we can all make it back into the buildings on Jan. 4 for staff and Jan. 5 for students.”  

The Columbus County Health Department will be offering drive-thru COVID-19 rapid testing tomorrow (Friday) from 10 a.m.  until 3 p.m. Testing is free. For appointments, call 910-640-6615 extension 7006 or 7007. 

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Jefferson Weaver is the managing editor of and news director for WTXY radio. He can be reached at 910.632.4965, or by email at