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44% jump in local COVID-19 infections
  • Updated

The Medical University of South Carolina has reported a whopping 44% increase in Lancaster’s COVID-19 infections from July 16 to July 23.

On Wednesday, July 27, MUSC also reported a 28% increase in the Charleston Tri-county area and a 22% increase in the Midlands.

The tracking team posts weekly updates on the four parts of state where MUSC Health has hospitals. The spike is being attributed to the spread of the BA.5 variant.

“Big jump this week,” said Dr. Michael Sweat, who leads the COVID-19 Epidemiology Intelligence Project for MUSC.

“We’re in one of those waves. It would be prudent for people to take a stock of their risk and maybe take a break from things like group gatherings for a while. It’s just the reality we’re in,” Sweatt said in release posted on the MUSC website.

The spike has the state’s public health officials once again closely monitoring coronavirus-related hospitalizations across South Carolina.

According to the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control, more than 16,000 new cases of COVID-19, nine deaths and 538 hospitalizations were reported in the state between July 17 and July 23.

Community levels climbing

DHEC’s updated community levels map shows 29 counties in the state with high levels of COVID-19 and 11 counties, including Lancaster, with medium levels.

Counties with high community levels include Aiken, Anderson, Bamberg, Barnwell, Berkeley, Calhoun, Charleston, Chesterfield, Colleton, Darlington, Dillon, Dorchester, Edgefield, Fairfield, Florence, Georgetown, Greenville, Hampton, Horry, Kershaw, Lexington, Marion, Marlboro, Newberry, Oconee, Orangeburg, Pickens, Richland and Williamsburg.

DHEC is urging masking in indoor settings, schools and workplaces in communities with high levels of COVID-19 infections.

Counties with medium community levels include Lancaster, Allendale, Beaufort, Cherokee, Chester, Clarendon Lee, Spartanburg, Sumter, Union and York.

The agency recommends masking up for those in contact with immuno-compromised people or those at higher risk of contracting COVID-19 for residents in counties with medium community levels.

DHEC reported 293 new infections in Lancaster County from July 17-23.

With numbers shooting up, DHEC is once again urging parents to get kids vaccinated before the start of the new school year.

“There is no better time than now for all children to get their COVID-19 vaccination so that they can focus 100% on school and not have to worry about missing days or missing events or classes or having their schedules altered due to COVID-19,” said Dr. Brannon Traxler, public health director for DHEC during a Wednesday news briefing.

As of July 23, 52.6% of people in South Carolina were fully vaccinated, but only 18% of children ages 5-11 were, and just 1.6% of children under 5 had received their first shot.

Fourth vaccine

Traxler said the state will start offering a fourth COVID-19 vaccine very soon.

On July 13, the Novavax COVID-19 vaccine received an Emergency Use Authorization from the Food and Drug Administration for those 18 and older.

The state has been allocated 50,000 doses of the Novavax vaccine and started ordering the shots last week. Some doses of the fourth vaccine will be available in the upcoming days.

The Novavax vaccine has also been recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Traxler noted the Novavax vaccine differs from the previous three in that it uses a more traditional method of making the shot that has been used for years with others, such as the flu vaccine.

“I do think there are some people who have a lot more confidence and comfort in using the Novavax vaccine,” she said. “I think then they may consider using it and decide to give it a shot, no pun intended.”

Follow reporter Greg Summers on Twitter @GregSummersTLN or contact him at 803-339-6869.

breaking featured
School board drops Stroble complaint
  • Updated

Local school officials will take no more action on a complaint lodged by an unnamed school district employee against board member Melvin Stroble.

That employee accused Stroble earlier this year of creating a hostile work environment.

A probe into the matter did not corroborate the complaint and the county school board voted 6-0 at its Tuesday, July 26, meeting to accept the results of an investigation into the matter.

Calling it a “privileged report,” Lancaster County School Board Chairwoman Janice Dabney read the statement about the allegation just after its members came out of a three-hour-long closed-door session where it was discussed.

“The board took the complaint seriously and out of an abundance of caution hired an independent third-party investigator to inquire into the allegation,” Dabney said.

Board member Tyrom Faulkner made the motion and board member Ken Buck seconded the motion before it was voted on. Board member Margaret Gamble wasn’t at the meeting.

Stroble told The Lancaster News on Wednesday, July 27, that the February 2022 complaint had led to some trying times and he is grateful that the entire matter has been cleared up.

“I just want to thank all the individuals in the community who reached out to me personally to check on my family. There were countless people who just prayed with me, be it at the grocery store or when I was fueling my car. They would just stop me and we would pray together,” Stroble said. “All the telephone calls, emails, text messages and words of encouragement were very uplifting.

“Keep in mind this has been a four-month-long process. My wife and I had many sleepless nights where this just sat on me, trying to figure out what I did to created this scenario.”

Dabney said an investigator concluded that a court would find the allegations against Mr. Stroble insufficient to sustain a claim of a hostile work environment under Title VII.

Title VII makes it unlawful to discriminate against any employee or applicant for employment based on race, color, religion, sex and national origin. The law applies to private and public colleges and universities, along with all federal, local and state organizations or businesses with more than 15 employees.

In U.S. labor law, a hostile work environment exists when one’s workplace behavior creates a difficult or uncomfortable environment for another person to work in.

“Furthermore the investigation did not substantiate anything illegal, especially in the absence of evidence. At this time, the board finds no other action is needed in regard of the complaint,” Dabney said.

February complaint

The complaint registered against Stroble stemmed from the Feb. 15 board meeting when he questioned Jennifer White, the district’s chief financial officer, during a monthly financial update.

Sometime after the meeting, a letter was written to Dabney stating that Stroble had created a “hostile work environment.” The district has never confirmed the identity of the employee who filed the complaint.

In April, Stroble suggested to the school board that the complaint filed against him be sent to the S.C. Human Affairs Commission for an investigation.

However, the board voted in early May to hire Eugene Matthews of Richardson, Plowden and Robinson law firm in Columbia to conduct a review of the complaint against Stroble. Matthews specializes in employment and labor law.

Calling the results of the investigation “a matter of consideration for the entire school board,” Stroble said he was not given a copy of Matthews’ report and hasn’t asked for one either.

Stroble said he is ready to move on.

“The process yielded what many of us believed to be true. The board chair stated that the report indicated there was nothing there legally and the claim of a hostile work environment would not satisfy any of the conditions under Title VII,” he said.

“This is a win for all elected officials working to be advocates for their communities, who are seeking to be transparent and take their roles seriously in how they vote on the issues coming before them and being good stewards of taxpayer dollars.”

Follow reporter Greg Summers on Twitter @GregSummersTLN or contact him at 803-339-6869.

Happy Birthday, George!
  • Updated

“That’s pretty good,” George Waldrop said Tuesday afternoon as he sipped a Bloody Mary while sitting at a table in the dining room at Lancaster Grove Senior Living.

“It’s about 99 and 44/100’s percent,” Waldrop said, smiling as he placed the drink on the table, fished out the celery stalk and took a bite.

A World War II hero, banker, husband, dad, grandpa, great-grandpa and all-around good guy, Waldrop was enjoying another trip around the sun with his family and friends.

But this one was a watershed occasion. It’s not every day that a 100th birthday comes around and Waldrop was savoring every minute of his on July 26.

“That one right there, that’s the one,” Waldrop said, as he pointed to a birthday cupcake slathered in camouflage-colored icing.

“Happy 100th Birthday, George,” someone shouted.

When Waldrop was born in 1922, the average yearly income was $3,143. First-class stamps cost 2 cents, eggs were 39 cents a dozen, gas was 25 cents a gallon and the price of a new home was $5,400.

“You know, this is one of the best things that has ever happened to me,” Waldrop said, noting of the significance of reaching the century mark.

Saturday celebration

Tuesday’s impromptu party was the icing on the cake for Waldrop.

A 100th celebration breakfast was held for him Saturday, July 23, at Punky’s on Main. The downtown event drew elected officials, including a congressman, members of the Veterans Coffee Club, the American Legion and the Lancaster County Veterans Affairs Office.

Waldrop is the elder statesman of the informal coffee club, which meets weekly at the downtown eatery.

Punky’s owner Scott Edwards and Steve Eubanks of P&J Sales prepared the Waldrop’s birthday breakfast for the packed house, with Nutramax paying the bill.

Sadly, everyone was there but Waldrop, who was hospitalized early Saturday after getting severely dehydrated. He was discharged the following day and is recovering, but is still weak.

While Waldrop missed his Saturday salute, the affair went off without a hitch, with J.C. Dawkins standing in for him.

Dawkins is chaplain of American Legion Post 31.

The event was also livestreamed on Facebook, so the “birthday boy” could see it.

Three Bronze Stars

Dawkins said the quiet, gentle and always friendly Waldrop seldom talks about himself, though he earned three Bronze Stars during World War II.

His unit was attached to Patton’s Third Army during the Battle of the Bulge and Waldrop saw action in France and Germany in 1944-45.

The scar on Waldrop’s face, Dawkins said, is from a shrapnel injury. Waldrop also has a hunk of shrapnel in a shoulder, but he never told doctors about the shoulder injury, so it isn’t listed on his military medical records.

“He’s a tough old boy,” Dawkins said. “It doesn’t matter how bad of a day he’s having, he has that smile on his face. That is the peace of knowing that God is in control.”

The optimistic Waldrop also became a lifetime member of the American Legion in 2017.

“He was 95, then, and is still working on his lifetime membership,” Dawkins said, over a round of raucous laughter at the breakfast.

“He’s the only person that I’ve ever been praying for and he just reaches out, stops you and says, ‘Hold it a minute. I’m gonna pray for you now.’ That’s the kind of man he is,” Dawkins said.

Three members of the county’s legislative delegation — S.C. Rep. Brandon Newton and state Sens. Penry Gustafon and Michael Johnson presented Dawkins with a joint resolution for Waldrop on behalf of the S.C. General Assembly.

Newton said writing the resolution was a struggle because Waldrop never speaks about his own accomplishments.

In 2013, Waldrop penned the book, “What ‘Poppy’ did in the War, or As I Remember It,” to chronicle his wartime experience for his family.

“Not sharing his Bronze Stars too often is very noble of what a true hero is. Heroes don’t build themselves up, they build up others. And I think his life of service shows that,” Newton said.

Not from here

While Waldrop considers Lancaster home, he didn’t grow up here.

One of four children, he was raised in Greenville and graduated from high school there in 1940. At the time, his dad, Claude Waldrop, was a master mechanic for Southern Railway. He came to Lancaster in 1942, when his dad got the job as the shop foreman for the L&C Railroad.

He met and married Louise Sistare the following year, on Feb. 13, 1943, and joined the Army four months later.

They were together for 73 years. Louise died in 2016.

After being discharged from the Army, Waldrop returned to Lancaster and went to work at the Bank of Lancaster as its first male cashier.

A father of two, Waldrop rose up through the ranks of the bank. When Springs Mills started the Lancaster Trust Co. in the 1960s, Waldrop was its head.

Waldrop worked under six different bank banners in his career. In 1974, when the trust company was bought out by Central Carolina Bank, he was named its president. Waldrop was named vice president of First National Bank when it bought out CCA.

When the Lancaster Medical Endowment was formed in 1976, Waldrop was named its executive director and served there for a number of years before retiring.

The endowment was originally a supporting arm for Springs Memorial Hospital, which is now MUSC Health-Lancaster.

The endowment raised funds for everything from the helipad and elevators to diagnostic machines. The endowment became the Lancaster County Partners for Youth after the hospital was sold to Community Health Services. MUSC bought the hospital in 2016.

“It’s been an interesting life,” Waldrop said in a 2019 interview with The Lancaster News.

Quiet hero

Many around town knew Waldrop as a community business leader, but few knew about his World War II military record. And that made an impression on Republican U.S. Rep. Ralph Norman.

The U.S. House member also came to the breakfast bearing gifts for Waldrop, including a certificate on behalf of the 117th Congress, along with a congressional coin that honors veterans on special occasions, an American flag and a brown paper bag of fresh, homegrown tomatoes.

Norman compared Waldrop’s low-key nature to that of his wife’s uncle, the late Wright Horton.

A Belton attorney, Horton fought in the South Pacific during World War II and served with Chesty Puller, who is the most decorated Marine in American history.

Puller, who died in 1971, was awarded five Navy Crosses and one Distinguished Service Cross.

Norman said Horton is mentioned in one of Puller’s books as being the most physically fit Marine in the unit.

Awarded a Silver Star Medal for gallantry at Guadalcanal, Horton died in 1991. Norman said few outside the immediate family were aware of Horton’s distinguished military service until the day “Marines from everywhere came in” for his funeral.

“True heroes don’t say anything… Like George, he may tell you and he may not when you ask him,” Norman said.

County Councilman Larry Honeycutt and Waldrop have been friends for more than half a decade. Honeycutt is also a military veteran.

Honeycutt said Waldrop never talks much, preferring to let his actions talk for him.

“That’s what makes him so special,” Honeycutt said.

Follow reporter Greg Summers on Twitter @GregSummersTLN or contact him at 803-339-6869.

Lancaster man dies in car crash
  • Updated

A Lancaster man was killed Wednesday evening in a car crash in Kershaw.

Dexter Goshorn, 19, died in the accident, according to Lancaster County Coroner Karla Deese.

The single-car wreck occurred about 8 p.m. July 27 on Flat Rock Road near Three C’s Road, said S.C. Highway Patrol Trooper Nick Pye.

Goshorn was driving a 1998 BMW sedan south on Flat Rock Road, when he ran off left side of road and struck a tree, Pye said.

Goshorn, the sole occupant of the vehicle, was pronounced deceased at the scene of the accident by Lancaster County Deputy Coroner Joey Edwards.

The incident is being investigated by the Highway Patrol and the Lancaster County Coroner’s Office.