UPDATE: Starting next week, those out on bond will come to the detention center for virtual bond hearings, Horry County Sheriff Phillip Thompson said in Wednesday’s virtual county meeting.
Sheriff Thompson said this coming week, people out on bond will report to the J. Reuben Long Detention Center, where this is a system already set up for virtual hearings. The judges will be at the Horry County Justice Center.
“This is something that we haven’t done before, obviously…we feel very comfortable in being able to do this. We work with our solicitor’s office, public offenders office, with our judges and court staff, probations, pardons and parole, we got a group together and they [those set for bond hearings] will be reporting to the detention center, where the system is already set up and our judges will be here at the justice center and we will be holding court for those people that are out on bond,” Sheriff Thompson said. “This is important because what we’re able to do is to keep the backlog from building up. As much court as we can continue to have, it will prevent that when we do go back to normal duties and all, we will have been able to take care of this.”
Over the last few weeks, arraignments and pleas of those incarcerated in the detention center were held virtually, Sheriff Thompson said. About 100 cases were able to move forward.
Sheriff Thompson also said the monthly roll call held at the courthouse set for Friday, May 8 has been canceled.
“Hopefully, we got the word out to the folks that were subpoenaed and told to be here. But, in the event that the word didn’t get to everyone and we have a lot of people show up to come into the justice center, we have put a big sign up, big signage up, out where the flagpole entrance is here at the justice center telling everyone roll call has been canceled, to contact your attorney. We’ll have our staff there, there will also be some staff members from the solicitor’s office to help and to assist, so that we don’t get a bunch of folks inside the justice center.
Sheriff Thompson also said there has only been one positive case with an employee of the detention center. There hasn’t been any other reported cases.
The sheriff added that most employees who were off have been able to return to work.
Horry County Police Chief Joseph Hill provided an update on how the Horry Co. Police Department is responding to the virus.
Chief Hill said although there isn’t a timeline for full reopening of police facilities, the department is planning for this.
“We are in discussions now, planning for the reopening of our police facilities. We don’t have a timeline for that yet, but some things will change,” Chief Hill said. “As the public re-enters our facilities to make a report, we are planning on having masks available. we would ask that you bring your own, but if not, we will make some available until supplies are out, to make that report. We’re doing some other stuff that’s in the facilities to make sure as you enter the facility, you’re protected analog with our employees.”
Chief Hill added the department continues to have challenges in maintaining social distancing on beaches.
The limit for groups was previously at three, but with a new order from SC Governor Henry McMaster, that limit has increased to eight for outdoor dining and gatherings in open areas.
Chief said the department will apply the same enforcement structure to voluntary compliance on the beach and outdoor dining.
“So an officer, who is working beach patrol, if you’re eight or less, we’re assuming that you’re a familar group, that you are a group that came here together,” Chief Hill said.
For groups of over eight, Chief Hill said an officer will remind of social distancing guidelines.
Chief Hill added the department is in the planning process for the bike week that was rescheduled Tuesday night by Horry County Council from May until July.
“We’re encouraged by having our visitors come back to the beach, but we are going to continue to educate our visitors on the guidelines that the governor has set forth,” Chief Hill said. “So I would say to our citizens and visitors be prepared for the changes that will occur as we phase in a total opening of the Horry County area.”
Horry County Fire Rescue Chief Joseph Tanner also provided an update on his department during the meeting.
Chief Tanner said HCFR is continuing to take precautions as crews respond to calls and that supplies of protective equipment remains strong.
“As we told you before, you will see our folks dressed a little differently when they come to your call here from a medical call standpoint,” Chief Tanner said. “We continue to sanitize our equipment, our fire stations. We report our supply chain has continued to be strong.”
Chief Tanner said the department’s call volume has started to increase “a little,” but that this is typical for this time of year. He also said calls related to COVID-19 have remained steady at about 20 calls per day. He noted these calls “are not necessarily positive cases” and just those who are symptomatic.
Chief Tanner added that April 2020 had a 1,000 call decrease in calls from April 2019.
Assistant Administrator for Public Safety & Emergency Management Director Randy Webster was asked if the county knew about how many people were being tested on a daily and weekly basis in Horry County, what is the ideal amount of testing capability for the area and if anything was being done to reach that level, and if there were any procedures in place for notifying visitors or locals should an outbreak be traced back to an area hotel or attraction.
He referred these questions to the SC Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC), who was didn’t participate in the meeting, saying DHEC is “in charge of all the monitoring and testing and follow up testing should anything happen” and the county “doesn’t have that responsibility nor that capability.”
Webster was also asked if any additional Horry County employees or detention center inmates have tested postive for the virus.
“To our knowledge, right now, no. As the sheriff mentioned earlier, same with the detention center, so I feel very lucky and very proud that our folks are doing the right steps to remain safe and to keep the public safe,” Webster said.
Webster deferred to Horry County Police Chief Hill when asked if any citations have been given out to businesses or groups of people violating social distancing measures.
” No. What we’re seeking is voluntary compliance. It’s complaint driven,” Chief Hill said. “If calls come into the 911 center, officers respond. However, SLED has a task force of officers that they are call responsive to any issues dealing with restaurants that may be violating the order according to appearance. They are all around the state of South Carolina and there’s a team in the Pee Dee and on the strand.”
When asked if airlines at Myrtle Beach International Airport have started to resume service, Webster deferred to Horry County Department of Airports Director Scott Van Moppes.
Moppes said Spirit Airlines, Sun County, Allegiant, and Frontier have all resumed service this month.
ON MOBILE AND DON’T SEE THE VIDEO ABOVE? CLICK HERE TO WATCH.
CONWAY, SC (WBTW) – Horry County leaders are holding a virtual update on the county’s coronavirus response.
The meeting will begin at 11 a.m. and will be streamed on the county government’s Facebook page.
News13 will also stream the meeting above.
The following county leaders are expected to speak at the meeting:
- Horry County Public Information Director Kelly Moore
- Horry County Council Chairman Johnny Gardner
- Assistant Administrator for Public Safety & Emergency Management Director Randy Webster
- Horry County Sheriff Phillip Thompson
- Horry County Police Chief Joseph Hill
- Horry County Fire Rescue Chief Joseph Tanner
Count on News13 for updates.
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