HORRY COUNTY, S.C. (WBTW) — It was a year of face masks, plexiglass between desks and adjustments to different learning models for South Carolina students.
At the end of the 2020-21 year, there were 14,378 students diagnosed with COVID-19 statewide, according to the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control. There were an additional 4,520 cases among employees.
The agency didn’t have a goal for the specific number of cases it wanted the state to stay under, according to a written statement from DHEC.
“Like all public health agencies, DHEC’s goal is to see zero cases of COVID-19,” the statement reads.
The agency said it continues to work with different entities to provide vaccinations and mitigate the impacts of the virus.
“DHEC was pleased to provide necessary, effective safety measures during the 2020-2021 academic year,” the statement reads. “The Department’s approach was largely based on guidelines provided by experts from CDC and included effective ways to protect South Carolina’s students, teachers, and other public education staffers.”
It said it’s awaiting updated CDC guidelines for the next academic year, which will then be used to inform districts.
It recommends the vaccine for anyone 12 years or older.
The numbers tracked by DHEC do not mean that a student or employee got infected at school, only that a member of that school’s community tested positive at any point during the academic year.
Larger schools — like middle and high schools — tended to have larger case numbers than smaller ones.
Within News13’s coverage area — which includes Darlington, Dillon, Florence, Horry, Marion and Marlboro counties — the greatest number of cases were in high schools within Horry County, where the population is the highest. There were 69 cases at Carolina Forest High School, 48 cases at St. James High School, 39 cases at Socastee High School and 37 cases at Myrtle Beach High School, according to DHEC.
There were also a handful of schools in the Florence School District One with higher counts, including 31 cases at West Florence High School and 27 cases at South Florence High School.
Overall, out of 49,748 students and staff in Horry County Schools, there were 2,587 positive cases, according to Lisa Bourcier, a spokeswoman for the district.
“Our low numbers were attributed to following health protocols and recommendations set forth by federal and state health officials and the cooperation and support of staff, students, and families,” Bourcier said in an emailed statement.
Districts statewide have implemented new policies and procedures to respond to the pandemic, which have included canceling sporting events in response to outbreaks, adding plexiglass between desks and requiring sick children to stay home. Schools also adjusted to new education models, such as hybrid and online-only learning.
Those methods are evolving, with parents able to opt their students out of wearing a face mask to school starting at the end of the 2020-21 year.
Horry County Schools will also have no plexiglass when school returns in the fall. The barriers, which the district spent $5 million to install, will be repurposed.
News13 also reached out to Florence School District One for comment but did not hear back before deadline.
Use the database below to search for cases during the 2020-21 academic year in school districts in Darlington, Dillon, Horry, Florence, Marion and Marlboro counties.