Horry County Schools nutrition services employee tests positive for coronavirus

Coronavirus

HORRY COUNTY, SC (WBTW) – State health officials are investigating after an Horry County Schools nutrition services employee tested positive for the coronavirus.

This is one of Horry County’s nearly 100 confirmed COVID-19 cases. That worker was at Socastee Elementary School as part of the school district’s free meals program. Families who got meals there will now pick up food at Socastee High School.

In a statement, HCS says that worker did not show any symptoms when pre-screened while last working on Thursday, Apr. 2. HCS says it has told employees who had direct contact with the infected worker to self-quarantine for 14 days.

The district plans to disinfect the school and buses. HCS also says it may have to scale back grab-and-go meal sites or bus pickup locations in the wake of this positive test.

Dr. Gerald Harmon, who’s a family physician with Tidelands Health, says getting COVID-19 directly through food is rare.

“The science of this is it is not a foodborne illness,” he said. “It is spread by droplets, by particles.”

Whether it’s grab-and-go school meals or takeout food from a restaurant, Dr. Harmon says the same rules apply for preventing a coronavirus infection.

“Wash your hands and wash the surfaces of the food (and) the containers that it’s in before you store it,” said Dr. Harmon.

An HCS spokesperson did not know if that worker had contact with any students or parents referring us to the state Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC). News13 has reached out to DHEC about the investigation and did not hear back Wednesday.

HCS released the following statement Wednesday:

On April 7th, the South Carolina Department of Health & Environmental Control (SC DHEC) confirmed for HCS officials that a Nutrition Services employee who has worked at Socastee Elementary School during the school closure tested positive for COVID-19. This employee’s last day reporting to work was Thursday, April 2nd. The employee was pre-screened by the school nurse, which is done daily, on Thursday, April 2nd, and did not present any symptoms. Horry County Schools cannot share any additional information about the employee and cannot legally disclose the employee’s health condition.

In accordance with SC DHEC guidelines, HCS has communicated with all HCS Nutrition Services and Transportation employees who may have had direct contact with the employee. In addition, employees who had direct contact with the employee have been directed to self-quarantine for 14 days. SC DHEC will also conduct an investigation.

We want to assure our staff and all of our stakeholders that our number one priority is the health and well-being of our students and employees. Employees are pre-screened by nursing staff each day prior to beginning work, and all food preparation surfaces and equipment are decontaminated daily. Standards for handling food products are followed in the preparation of student grab-and-go meals. Single-service items are also used in many of our food service settings to avoid any contact concerns.

The Socastee Elementary school meal site has been closed and affected areas will be appropriately cleaned and disinfected. The affected buses will also be appropriately cleaned and disinfected. Effective April 8th, Socastee High School will provide grab-and-go meals for the Socastee area.

As we all know, the community impact of the COVID-19 virus remains a dynamic and changing situation. Consequently, the district may have to scale back the operation of the current 13 grab-and-go meal sites, as well as the number of bus meal pick-up locations.

Words cannot express adequately our gratitude to our Nutrition Services and Transportation Department, as well as all other HCS employees, whose work and dedication enable us to continue to deliver critical services to the students of Horry County during this public health emergency.

Count on News13 for updates.

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