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New virus death in Orangeburg County; new cases in region; additional 447 S.C. residents test positive

An Orangeburg County resident has died of the coronavirus.

Also, an additional 15 people in the county have tested positive for the virus, according to figures released Friday by the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control.

An additional Calhoun County resident and three additional Bamberg County residents have also tested positive.

Statewide, there are 447 new cases of the novel coronavirus COVID-19 and 13 additional deaths. Eleven deaths occurred in elderly individuals from Clarendon, Greenville, Horry, Orangeburg, Richland and Spartanburg counties, and two deaths occurred in middle-aged individuals from Charleston and Cherokee counties

Orangeburg County now has 242 cases of the coronavirus and 1,487 estimated cases. There have been four deaths.

Cordova’s 29039 ZIP code added a case. It now has 11 cases and 68 estimated cases.

Elloree’s 29047 ZIP code also added a case. It now has 11 cases and 68 estimated cases.

North’s 29112 ZIP code also added a case. It now has 19 cases and 117 estimated cases.

Orangeburg’s 29115 ZIP code added seven cases. It now has 96 cases and 590 estimated cases.

Orangeburg’s 29118 ZIP code added two cases. It now has 36 cases and 221 estimated cases.

Santee’s 29142 ZIP code added a case. It now has 13 cases 80 estimated cases.

Vance’s 29163 ZIP code added two cases. It now has 15 cases and 92 estimated cases.

Bamberg County now has 33 cases and 203 estimated cases. No residents have died of coronavirus. It is unclear where the additional cases are located.

Calhoun County now has 19 cases and 117 estimated cases. There has been one death.

Cameron’s 29030 ZIP code lost a case. It now has four cases and 25 estimated cases.

Gaston’s 29053 ZIP code added 14 cases. It now has 69 cases and 424 estimated cases.

St. Matthews’s 29135 ZIP code added three cases. It now has 13 cases and 80 estimated cases.

Sandy Run’s 29160 ZIP code added three cases. It now has 26 cases and 160 estimated cases.

Estimated cases are based on evidence that for every known case of COVID-19, there could be up to nine people with the virus who remain unidentified in the community.

Some ZIP codes include people in more than one county. As examples, the Cope 29038 ZIP code includes portions of Orangeburg and Bamberg counties, the Orangeburg 29118 ZIP code extends into Calhoun County, and the Sandy Run ZIP code is in Lexington and Calhoun counties.

As new information is provided to DHEC, some changes in cases may occur. Cases are reported based on the person’s county of residence, as it is provided to the department. DHEC’s COVID-19 figures will adjust to reflect any reclassified cases.

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JCPenney leaving Orangeburg; company arrived in city over 60 years ago

JCPenney is permanently closing its Prince of Orange Mall store as part of a companywide bankruptcy reorganization plan.

The company has had an Orangeburg location for more than 60 years.

Orangeburg resident Felicia Conner will miss it.

"It was a pretty good department store where you could easily find mainly business attire," Conner said. "That is a big thing for me. That is where I get all my business-type clothes and nice, dressy clothes."

The loss “will mean one less store that we will have. We don't have any stores as it is. That will be a bad thing for me,” Conner said.

J.C. Penney Company, Inc. made the decision to close the Orangeburg store following an evaluation of its retail footprint, store performance and future strategic fit, the company said in a press release.

The Orangeburg store is among six JCPenneys in the state and 154 stores companywide that will close in what the company is calling the first round of store closures.

The Orangeburg store closed in March during the coronavirus pandemic and furloughed a majority of its hourly employees. The JCPenney has not reopened, while the majority of the mall's stores have. Company officials are not releasing the number of employees at the Orangeburg store at this time.

"All impacted associates are being treated with the utmost consideration and respect," JCPenney Manager of Communications Kristen Bennett said. "Benefits-eligible associates will also be paid severance pending court approval."

The store will begin a close-out sale June 12, with the liquidation process to take between 10 to 16 weeks.

Orangeburg resident Johnathan Mitchell said he has mixed feelings about the store closing.

"It was one of the longest-standing stores in the mall," Mitchell said. "Ever since I was a kid, JCPenney has been here and I am 32 years old."

But Mitchell says he feels the mall will be OK.

"It shouldn't affect the mall that greatly," he said. “I don't really feel like JCPenney's was a popular store."

Mitchell says he does feel bad for those losing their jobs but says it is the way of big business.

“Sometimes you are up and sometimes you bust," he said.

JCPenney has served as one of the mall's anchor retailers. The other is Belk.

The mall's Sears store closed about seven years ago.

Hull Property Group, which manages the mall, says the closure is no reflection on the mall.

"JCPenney has been closing stores across the country due to declining sales over the past few years," HPG Marketing Director Coles Doyle said. "The pandemic escalated mass closures for JCPenney and many other vulnerable national retailers with underlying financial troubles that existed well before this year."

Doyle said the closure of JCPenney is part of a changing retail environment in line with changes in customer needs and tastes.

"When one door closes, another opens and this can be an opportunity to re-imagine and reconfigure the mall and the overall property with the specific needs of the community in mind," Doyle said. "Communities in smaller markets have a vital interest in keeping their retail corridors viable."

"We know that shoppers don’t want a retail model where retail stores are only in urban markets – requiring those in smaller markets to either shop online or drive 45 miles away to do so," Doyle said.

Doyle said the closure is an opportunity.

"Now is a great opportunity for regional and local businesses and entrepreneurs to fill the retail void with ideas that extend beyond chain retail stores into health care, fitness, food, baked goods, specialty shops, apparel boutiques, maker spaces and ventures, experiences and other internet businesses that can benefit from a physical presence," Doyle said.

Doyle said HPG has developed a small business initiative called the American Dream Project (www.dreambighere.com) where it can provide entrepreneurs with a business vision.

"We believe this is the future of the Prince of Orange Mall," Doyle said.

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OCtech enhances safety measures

Orangeburg-Calhoun Technical College is taking extra precautions to make sure its students, faculty and staff are safe when classes resume on campus.

Summer courses – which began June 1 – will be held online until July 6, at which time classes requiring lab hours will meet in small groups with social distancing guidelines in place.

Students, faculty and staff will be given masks, which must be worn in classroom and lab settings as well as other common areas, and workstations campus-wide will be spaced at least six feet apart with occupancy at 50 percent or less.

Every other station will be used in hands-on labs.

These guidelines will also apply to such common areas as the OCtech library, Student Success Center, math and writing labs, computer labs and testing center.

Additionally, students, faculty and staff will be provided with wipes to clean common computer and work stations before and after use. Keyboard and mouse covers will also be in place.

Hand sanitizer stations will be easily accessible across campus.

Cleaning of all classrooms, labs and shared spaces will be enhanced.

Safety shields will be used in high-traffic areas like the front desk where students make payments and student services check-in, and spaces will be marked on the floor to remind everyone of the six-foot social distancing standard.

“This is an unprecedented time, and we are taking every precaution to ensure the safety and security of all of our students, faculty and staff,” President Dr. Walt Tobin said. “We understand the concerns individuals have with leaving their homes and returning to campus. We are continuing to monitor this fluid situation and adjust our learning and work environment as needed while maintaining a standard of excellence in education at OCtech.”

Fall courses begin Monday, Aug. 17. The courses will be offered on campus and online.

Hybrid courses combining online and classroom instruction will also be available. These options offer students flexibility when setting their schedules around work, childcare and other obligations or health concerns.

“By providing flexibility in our course offerings and schedules, we have the ability to meet the needs of a diverse set of learners,” Tobin said. “We have developed an integrated approach to online and face-to-face instruction that allows for active learning while maintaining a safe and secure environment for employees and students. We have expanded our technology capabilities, and we’re using it as a resource and a tool rather than as a replacement for face-to-face instruction.”

“In these uncertain times, we have everything you need to take control of your future at OCtech,” he said. “If you’re a new high school graduate, staying close to home during the pandemic doesn’t mean you have to put off your dreams of a great college education and experience.

“Our relationships with public and private colleges and universities statewide make the transition to a four-year institution easy and far less expensive. If you’ve experienced a job loss during this crisis or want to change careers, we have excellent programs that lead directly to good jobs and great careers. We’ll help you get where you want to be.”

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Orangeburg County officials support protests, but not violence, looting

Orangeburg County officials have expressed support for the recent protests in response to the death of George Floyd.

“Concerning the situation which is happening to this nation, I would like for us as county persons to go on record as supporting the protesting, but not the damages and the looting and all of that which is happening in our country,” County Councilwoman Deloris Frazier said during Monday’s teleconference meeting.

Council Chairman Johnnie Wright and all other council members supported Frazier.

“I certainly have no problem with people trying to have their voice heard, and I do have a problem with tearing up the community and things of that nature. That is not the answer,” Council Chairman Johnnie Wright said.

All council members agreed with Frazier, echoing her message, and going on record stating their support.

Orangeburg County Administrator Harold Young stated he also is in support of protests but condemns violence.

“There’s a fine line between peace and protection, and that’s what we’re looking to strive for,” Young said.

“This is a divisive topic across the nation. A lot of people are upset, a lot of people don’t understand, a lot of people feel some kind of way. But, at the end of the day, we have to calm down and understand that we have always been in a community that works through things,” Young said.

First responders and county officers will work with peaceful protestors, Young said.

“The men and women of the Orangeburg County Sheriff’s department, as well as first responders, are all understanding what’s at stake. They understand that peaceful demonstrations are not the problem, lawlessness is,” he said.

“But, individuals who come to the community who are not of this community and try and agitate and create damage will be dealt with,” Young said.

Young also took time to remind citizens that “COVID-19 did not go away,” in response to the large crowds that often gather at the protests.

“The protests that you saw all over the state and all over the nation are only going to exacerbate the problem that we have now with COVID-19,” Young said.

Also during the meeting:

• Council approved second reading after a public hearing of an ordinance providing appropriations for FY 2020-21 for the Orangeburg County budget.

• Council approved second reading of an ordinance providing appropriations for FY 2020-21 for Orangeburg-Calhoun Technical College and other public and special education purposes.