Local closings: Schools • Government • Businesses • Restaurants & Retail • Events

These are the biggest coronavirus headlines affecting Greenville and the Upstate for Wednesday, April 29. 

BMW to restart production on May 4

BMW’s Spartanburg County facility plans to begin manufacturing again next week.

“Right now, BMW Plant Spartanburg is scheduled to restart production on May 4,” a spokesman for the company said in an email.

BMW temporarily shut down its manufacturing facility in Greer on March 29, with early expectation saying the shutdown would last until mid-April, before the company pushed back that extension.

“Shelter in place orders in individual states have disrupted the supply chain sooner than anticipated,” the company said in a statement on March 25. “We will continue to monitor the ongoing situation very closely and adjust our plans as circumstances dictate.

The company employs approximately 11,000 workers in the Upstate.

In a statement issued on March 20, the company said it would focus on a “flexible approach” moving forward.

“The health and protection of our associates is our top priority,” the statement said. “At the same time, the dynamic development of the [coronavirus] pandemic is having a major impact on the global demand for cars. BMW Manufacturing is taking a flexible approach and adjusting our production volumes accordingly.”

-Alex Cooper

Heard about those 1.5 million masks flown into GSP?

Mask protector
Photo by Evan Peter Smith

We spoke with the local business owner who organized the shipment of 1.5 million masks for Prisma Health.

As it turned out, there was far more to the story than you might have heard.

Read this week’s cover story detailing the wild backstory behind how the masks ended up in Greenville.

-Evan Peter Smith

Fall for Greenville announces digital offerings

Fall for Greenville
Photo by Irina Rice

With the country practicing social distancing during the COVID-19 crisis, Bank of America Fall for Greenville recently launched two digital offerings to support its festival participants and connect with the community.

The annual festival created an online restaurants and breweries guide to feature event participants who offer online ordering, special menus, curbside pickup or delivery. The online guide will be updated as the featured restaurants and breweries change menu offerings and specials.

“One of Greenville’s strongest assets is our dynamic and diverse culinary scene,” said Fall for Greenville board chair Megan Finnern. “We hope the community will rally together during this difficult time to support our local restaurants that make Greenville such a special place to live, work and visit.”

In addition to creating the online guide, the festival collaborated with Greenville Jazz Collective to create its virtual educational series JazzEd. Taught by Furman University music professors and musicians, this program will offer tutorials every Wednesday in a variety of areas including vocal lessons and basic instrument instruction.

To view the online guide, click here. For more information on JazzEd, visit facebook.com/fallforgreenville.

-Jeannie Putnam

Greenville Zoo launches virtual zoo meetings

The Greenville Zoo is launching a new initiative to raise money for the zoo while connecting people to their favorite zoo animals.

Called ZooMeetings, the fundraiser allows zoo supporters to partner with the Greenville Zoo to “liven up their next virtual meeting” for a contribution of $75 or $100, according to a news release.

“The meeting organizer selects their favorite animal from the list provided, and a Greenville Zoo educator will kick off the virtual meeting with a brief introduction,” the release said.

You can schedule a ZooMeeting by calling the Greenville Zoo’s education department at 864-467-4850 or email zooed@greenvillesc.gov. A minimum of 48 hours’ notice is requested.

The closure of the zoo since March 14 has resulted in a “loss of critical revenue needed to keep the zoo running,” the release said.

“Even so, the Greenville Zoo continues to provide the best possible care for the animals and offers a variety of virtual animal encounters and keeper check-ins each week to give the public a unique look into day-to-day life for the zoo staff and residents.”

-Anna Lee

Clemson opens limited outdoor recreational areas

Clemson officials announced the scheduled reopening of limited outdoor recreational areas including the South Carolina Botanical Garden (SCBG), portions of the Clemson Experimental Forest and the Walker Golf Course beginning this weekend. All other university recreational areas remain closed.

Additionally, the University announced an extension of the suspension of all Clemson events, activities and gatherings at least through June 1. Earlier this week, all summer camps and educational programs on the University’s main campus were canceled.

The University continues to plan for a return to in-person classes for the Fall semester.

The South Carolina Botanical Garden (SCBG) will open trails and outdoor exhibits to the general public beginning Monday, May 4. Hours of operation will be 9 a.m. until sunset, and guests are required to adhere to social distancing guidelines provided by SCDHEC, the CDC and Clemson University. For more information about the South Carolina Botanical Garden, and updated polices and processes, please visit their site HERE.

-Official press release from Clemson University Relations

Tuesday, April 28

These are the biggest coronavirus headlines affecting Greenville and the Upstate for Tuesday, April 28. 

Haywood Mall to reopen this weekend

Haywood Mall in Greenville is set to open Friday, CNBC has reported.

Citing an internal memo, CNBC said Simon Property Group is reopening 49 of its shopping centers Friday through Monday, including Haywood Mall and the Gaffney Outlet Marketplace.

Business hours will be limited to 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and noon to 6 p.m. Sunday to allow for cleaning overnight, according to CNBC report.

Haywood Mall has been closed since March 18 to stem the spread of the the novel coronavirus.

-Anna Lee

Upstate husband signals support for wife at chemo appointment

Photo provided

Under new health protocols in hospitals and health care facilities, visitors have been heavily restricted in order to stem any spread of COVID-19. However, some people are finding creative ways to still be there for their loved ones even if they physically can’t be.

Such is the case for Diana and Dennis Cockrell. Diana is a breast cancer patient and is undergoing chemotherapy treatments at the Bon Secours St. Francis Cancer Center after being diagnosed this past winter. Though COVID-19 prevented her family from accompanying her to the chemo treatment on Monday, April 27, her husband and their three children — ages 20, 17 and 15 — devised a way to show their support.

“I was just hoping to provide just a little bright spot of joy in the middle of a bad situation,” Dennis Cockrell said.

Read the full story here.

-Alex Cooper

Bon Secours, AnMed to get rapid-testing devices for COVID-19

File photo

The state Department of Health and Environmental Control is deploying rapid-testing devices to Bon Secours Health System and AnMed Health in an effort to expand COVID-19 testing capabilities to areas of the state where testing for the virus may be limited.

South Carolina received 15 Abbott ID NOW COVID-19 rapid-response test devices from the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency Tuesday, according to a release from DHEC. The rapid-test devices can provide COVID-19 specimen results in 15-20 minutes and are in high demand around the country.

“We wish every health care facility in the state could be provided with these new instruments, but until then, we’ve prioritized their distribution to the places where we hope they can have the biggest and best impact for South Carolinians,” Dr. Joan Duwve, DHEC’s Director of Public Health, said in the release.

As of Tuesday afternoon, 5,735 coronavirus cases have been reported in South Carolina. At least 192 people have died.

-Anna Lee

Monday, April 27

These are the biggest coronavirus headlines affecting Greenville and the Upstate for Monday, April 27.

Gov. Henry McMaster declares new state of emergency

Gov. Henry McMaster issued a new executive order on Monday declaring a state of emergency throughout the state. The order allows the state’s response to COVID-19 to continue. The governor is able to declare a state of emergency for up to 15 days. The most recent order declaring a state of emergency expired today, April 27.

“South Carolina continues to fight this deadly virus with every asset and resource available,” said McMaster in a statement. “While we are making progress, we must remain vigilant with expanding prevention and testing efforts. Our state is also facing an economic disruption and emergency the likes of which we’ve never seen, and we are working tirelessly to get our businesses back up and running and our people back to work as soon and as safely as possible.”

The governor has now issued four executive orders declaring states of emergency due to the pandemic.

-Alex Cooper

South Carolina distilleries provide sanitizer to Prisma Health

An Upstate distillery has come to the aid of Prisma Health, shifting its production to making thousands of gallons of disinfectant for the health system.

Prisma Health purchased hand sanitizer from Palmetto Distillery in Anderson as well as from the St. Helena Island-based Seaside Grown. Palmetto Distillery is famous for its moonshine that comes in mason jars and includes flavors like blackberry, peach and apple pie.

The company delivered 5,000 gallons of its hand sanitizer last Friday.

Prisma Health will use the disinfectant to refill smaller containers and provide personal bottles to the health care system’s staff and guests.

-Alex Cooper

Clemson cancels all summer in-person events and programs

Clemson University officials announced on Monday that the school will cancel all in-person, main-campus athletic and academic camps and educational programs that were scheduled for the summer.

Officials have started planning the processes behind reopening the university’s facilities. In a statement, the officials said Clemson’s reopening would take a phased approach. Off-campus programming and athletics will continue to be monitored and evaluated.

-Alex Cooper

Watch: South Carolina Air National Guard honor healthcare workers with flyover

South Carolina flyover
U.S. Air Force photo by SMSgt Thomas Meneguin.

The South Carolina Air National Guard held a flyover over hospitals throughout South Carolina Monday morning to honor their work in response to COVID-19.

In the Upstate, the flyovers included St. Francis Downtown, Prisma Health Greenville Memorial, Prisma Health Patewood and St. Francis Eastside.

The six Swamp Fox F-16 fighter jets flew in sets of two. They were returning from a training mission prior to the flyover.

-John Olson and staff

Thursday, April 23

These are the biggest coronavirus headlines affecting Greenville and the Upstate for Thursday, April 23.

Greenville County Schools cancels proms

Following Gov. Henry McMaster’s decision not to allow schools to resume in-person instruction for the 2019-2020 school year, Greenville County Schools has announced that no proms will take place this spring.

While the school district has canceled prom, they are looking into alternative graduation plans.

“As far as graduations, we are committed to celebrating and honoring the class of 2020,” Greenville County Schools said in a statement. “We are in the process of developing a preference survey to be disseminated to all seniors. This will include options to our traditional graduation ceremonies in terms of format, location and timing.”

-Jeannie Putnam

Greater Greenville Sanitation recycling pickup temporarily discontinued

The Greater Greenville Sanitation District has temporarily discontinued curbside recycling pickup for the foreseeable future, in response to the coronavirus lockdowns.

Residents will still have their recycling containers picked up and emptied, but all that material will be disposed of along with the regular garbage likely through the end of May or even longer, according to executive director Steve Cole.

The sanitation district discontinued residential recycling pickup on March 17. Cole said the decision was made for “strictly practical purposes,” as the volume of residential trash has increased by about 20 percent.

Greater Greenville Sanitation services nearly 60,000 people who live in the unincorporated areas in the southern, western and northern portion of Greenville County.

-Evan Peter Smith

Business recovery task force launched to help Greenville following lockdown

The city of Greenville along with Greenville County, the Greenville Chamber and the Greenville Area Development Corporation launched a Business Recovery Task Force on April 23.

The 18-member group, comprising of individuals from various industries including business, nonprofit, education and financial sectors, will meet to listen, guide and support the community as it begins to emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic The recovery task force will offer a platform for information and access to local, state and federal resources.

During its first virtual meeting, the task force addressed long-term changes and impacts following COVID-19, insights from local business, medical professionals and community leaders, resources to assist with local business recovery, support for small and minority owned businesses, and lessons learned and opportunities for innovation.

-Jeannie Putnam

Wednesday, April 22

These are the biggest coronavirus headlines affecting Greenville and the Upstate for Wednesday, April 22. 

South Carolina schools to remain closed for rest of the school year

Greenville County Schools grades COVID-19
Photo by Greenville County School District.

Gov. Henry McMaster announced at a Wednesday morning press conference that all schools in South Carolina will remain closed for the rest of the school year.

Greenville County students will continue with eLearning through the last day of school on Thursday, June 4. Teachers will continue to post assignments through Google Classroom for grades 3-12, and Choice Boards will be posted virtually on the Greenville County Schools website and physically at food distribution sites for K-12 students.

“This is not the way anyone in public education would have wanted the 2019-20 school year to end, but given the circumstances, I want to thank Gov. McMaster and Superintendent Spearman for acting decisively to keep schools on eLearning for the remainder of the year after hearing the concerns of educators about the difficulties of operating school while maintaining social distancing recommendations,” said Greenville County Schools Superintendent Burke Royster.

An official order will come from the governor’s office sometime next week, which will outline flexibilities allowed for districts with regard to classes for students special needs and other exceptions to the overall school closures, such as voluntary parent-teacher conferences and reading camps.

-Evan Peter Smith

Local goat dairy farm offers virtual meet-and-greets with the animals

Split Creek Farm goat farm
Photo provided

Upstate goat dairy farm Split Creek Farm’s nonprofit Goats 4 Goodness is offering virtual farm tours and animal meet-and-greets.

“With the majority of the country quarantined, we wanted to offer a way for both kids and adults to learn a little more about the farm and experience the joy and happiness from getting to interact with our goats,” said Split Creek Farm co-owner Sandra Coffman.

Virtual visits are open to any school, university or business who wants to learn about the farm or see the goats. Lasting between 15 to 30 minutes, each visit can be customized to meet the needs of the participating group.

-Jeannie Putnam

Tuesday, April 21

These are the biggest coronavirus headlines affecting Greenville and the Upstate for Tuesday, April 21. 

South Carolina state parks to reopen May 1

South Carolina state parks are reopening on May 1.

Dawn Dawson-House, communications director for South Carolina Department of Parks, Recreation & Tourism, said in an email that the opening will include some restrictions.

“Group facilities like picnic shelters and community buildings will remain closed, and parks have lowered their carrying capacity to help establish a reasonable setting for social distancing,” Dawson-House said.

That means some parks will be considered full if the visitor count reaches a certain threshold, and the gates will close.

The threshold varies for every park. Visit SouthCarolinaParks.com for specifics.

-Anna Lee

Simpsonville city parks are now open

Parks in the city of Simpsonville, including The Dog Spot and Alder, City, College Street and Heritage parks, reopened Tuesday, with some restrictions.

Public restrooms and playgrounds remain closed, according to a release, and the public is asked to continue practicing social distancing.

“During stressful times like the coronavirus pandemic, people need fresh air and to get outside and enjoy themselves,” Parks and Recreation Director Robbie Davis said in the release. “We trust the public to take advantage of the reopening of parks while still social distancing, washing their hands and, if feasible, wearing masks.”

City officials will monitor activity in the parks to ensure conditions remain safe for the public to enjoy them.

-Anna Lee

Mayor Knox White on advisory panel to revive SC economy

Photo by Will Crooks

Greenville Mayor Knox White was one of 29 people named to an advisory panel tasked with reviving South Carolina’s economy in the aftermath of the coronavirus outbreak.

Members of the “accelerateSC” group will make immediate, intermediate and long-term recommendations to the governor for revitalizing and expanding the state’s economy while protecting the health of South Carolina citizens, according to the governor’s office.

Other members from the Upstate include Bob Hughes, chairman of Hughes Development Corporation in Greenville, and Nicky McCarter, who sits on Clemson University’s board of trustees.

-Anna Lee

Monday, April 20

These are the biggest coronavirus headlines affecting Greenville and the Upstate for Monday, April 20.

Gov. McMaster removes restrictions on retail stores

South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster removed state-wide restrictions put in place two weeks ago that mandated certain retail stores close their doors to the public.

In a Monday afternoon press conference, McMaster said department stores and other retail businesses that were previously deemed “nonessential” can reopen beginning Tuesday, although certain restrictions remain in place. Retail outlets must still comply with the health and safety standards previously put in place for essential businesses, which mandate that businesses must keep the occupancy to five customers per 1,000 square feet or 20% of its occupancy limits, whichever is fewer.

McMaster said the decision to remove the restrictions, even as coronavirus cases continue to increase, came as a result of the public’s strong response to the social distancing recommendations and guidelines.

“In light of the common sense being shown, we are ready to take some steps that will help South Carolina assure that our economic health is as strong as our public health,” McMaster said.

Certain businesses that involve close contact by design will remain shuddered under McMaster’s previous order. Those include gyms, barber shops or salons.

-Evan Peter Smith

Beach openings now up to local governments

In the same press conference, McMaster removed state-wide bans on beaches as of noon on Tuesday, leaving the decision up to local governments.

McMaster said he made the decision after speaking with “most of them mayors” along the South Carolina coast.

Any locally-implemented restrictions on beach access will remain in place.

The statewide rules on limiting close groups to three people or fewer will also remain in place, and McMaster said law enforcement will break up any such groups if seen in public, including on beaches.

-Evan Peter Smith

Friday, April 17

These are the biggest coronavirus headlines affecting Greenville and the Upstate for Friday, April 17.

SC coronavirus cases top 4,000

State health officials announced 163 new cases of the novel coronavirus and 7 additional deaths on Friday.

This brings the total number of people confirmed to have COVID-19 in South Carolina to 4,086 and those who have died to 116.

Greenville County reported 10 new cases for a total of 447 cases, according to the state Department of Health and Environmental Control.

Of those 7 deaths, three were elderly individuals with underlying health conditions from Florence, Richland and Lexington counties. Three were elderly individuals with no reported underlying conditions from Berkeley, Lee and Horry counties. One was a middle-aged individual with no reported underlying health conditions from Sumter County.

-Anna Lee

85,000 more people apply for unemployment benefits in SC

Tens of thousands of people continue to apply for unemployment benefits in South Carolina, according to the state Department of Employment and Workforce.

The agency received a record 85,000 initial claims in the week ending April 4, an increase of roughly 31% from the previous week’s 64,856 claims and a 4,159% increase from the week ending March 14, when less than 2,000 claims were filed.

“We know there is a continued uncertainty and many people are having problems filing claims. It is our goal to work with every one of these individuals to ensure their claim is filed and that they get a proper adjudication of it,” Dan Elizey, DEW’s executive director, said in a statement Friday.

The agency has already processed more than a quarter of a million claims in the last month, Elizey said. “Prior to that, we processed approximately 7,000 claims per month.”

Of the 85,000 new claims, nearly 10,000 were from Greenville County and 6,000 from Spartanburg County. Pickens County saw 2,153 new claims; Anderson County had 3,224 and Oconee County had 1,178, according to data from the Department of Employment and Workforce.

Read the full story here.

-Anna Lee

Greenville couple creates tribute website for COVID-19 victims

COVID-19 tribute website
Photo provided

With the rising number of COVID-19 deaths every day, Greenville veterinary surgeon Dr. Dermot Jevens and Icueity CEO Rebecca Heiss launched the tribute website, MourningAmerica.org on April 8.

The platform allows family and friends to grieve as a socially distanced community by posting obituaries, photos and memories of loved ones who died of the novel coronavirus.

“MourningAmerica.org is our way of giving people a voice at a time when they need it most,” said Heiss. “People are trapped at home, unable to be with their loved ones, and are now experiencing profound loss.”

The website currently has more than 1,000 COVID-19 victims listed.

-Jeannie Putnam

Thursday, April 16

These are the biggest coronavirus headlines affecting Greenville and the Upstate for Thursday, April 16.

McMaster says South Carolina will be “back in business” by June

Gov. Henry McMaster said in press conference that he expects businesses to be “hummin’ again” by June, although no specific date was given for when he anticipates the state to reopen.

The prediction came as McMaster announced a plan he called “Accelerate South Carolina,” which aims to outline a set of holistic guidelines for reopening the broader economy, including South Carolina’s manufacturing, tourism, agriculture, hospitality and state agencies. Details of the plan will be made public next week, he said.

S.C. Department of Environmental Health and Control Epidemiologist Dr. Linda Bell said the goal to reopen by June is entirely incumbent upon the degree to which citizens practice social distancing measures.

“We’ll know we can reopen when we reach a period where we are clearly on the downward side of that slope and disease activity has remained at some low level for some period of time, that we have reassurance that it’s not going back up again,” Bell said. “We can’t pick a date; we’re looking at disease activity.”

Boat ramps to reopen tomorrow

In the same press conference, McMaster said all boat ramps in the state would reopen at noon on Friday April 18.

Social distancing measures must still be practiced on the water, he stressed.

BMW Charity Pro-Am golf tournament canceled

Courtesy: BMW Charity Pro-Am

Another major event for the Upstate has been canceled.

PGA Tour officials announced Thursday morning that the annual BMW Charity Pro-Am tournament presented by SYNNEX Corporation has been canceled due to the ongoing coronavirus crisis.

The event was to be held June 1-7 at the Thornblade Club, The Cliffs Valley and other sites throughout the Upstate.

-Anna Lee

Meet Greenville City’s sign language interpretor

Jason Hurdich deaf interpreter
Photo by Will Crooks

The role that made Jason Hurdich famous happened by accident.

Hurdich, who was born deaf, had just moved to South Carolina to work for the state’s Vocational Rehabilitation Department when Hurricane Matthew began forming off the Caribbean coast.

The storm left a trail of destruction, battering Haiti and Cuba as a Category 4 hurricane before turning north toward Cape Canaveral, Florida. When it became clear that the system was headed toward the Carolinas, Hurdich’s boss told him to pack a bag. Then Gov. Nikki Haley had just declared a state of emergency, and Hurdich was needed at a press conference in Columbia.

“I had no idea what to expect going into it,” Hurdich says, speaking through an interpreter on a recent Friday afternoon. “They just kind of threw me into the fire.”

At the time, Hurdich was — and still is — the only Certified Deaf Interpreter in the state, and one of only 231 in the U.S. and Canada, according to the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf, a membership organization for the profession.

Wednesday, April 15

These are the biggest coronavirus headlines affecting Greenville and the Upstate for Wednesday, April 15.

VGSC: Greenville losing $1.8 million a day because of coronavirus lockdown

The past few weeks have not been easy for Greenville’s visitors bureau, VisitGreenvilleSC.

Conventions and events have been canceled; hotels are vacant or closed altogether.

The local tourism industry has taken hit after hit since the coronavirus outbreak effectively shut down travel and stay-at-home orders became the norm.

“The loss has been devastating,” said Chris Stone, president of VisitGreenvilleSC. “On a daily basis, about 7,000 people aren’t here walking around, looking for somewhere to eat, looking to go to an attraction.”

That’s a loss of roughly $1.8 million per day and $54 million per month, according to estimates provided by VisitGreenvilleSC and Destination International, a professional organization that represents convention and visitors bureaus worldwide.

Nationally, the travel and tourism industry could lose $400 billion in travel spending this year, translating into a total economic loss of $910 billion, a recent report by the U.S. Travel Association showed.

-Anna Lee

Prisma Health to begin testing blood plasma treatment for COVID-19

Prisma Health is participating in a national clinical trial to test the effectiveness of blood plasma in treating severe coronavirus cases, hospital officials announced Wednesday, April 15.

The treatment is developed from the plasma of recovered COVID-19 patients and then administered to hospitalized patients who have the life-threatening virus, according to a release.

“The overall goal of the trial is to determine if blood plasma from recovered COVID-19 patients can improve the chance of recovery for people severely-ill with the disease,” the release says.

As part of the trial, a national coalition led by the Mayo Clinic will be using blood banks to help collect the plasma and distribute it for use in COVID-19 patients in approximately 100 sites across the country, including Prisma Health.

Read the full story here.

-Anna Lee

SC has over 100 coronavirus deaths

The state Department of Health and Environmental Control announced 105 new cases of the novel coronavirus and 10 additional deaths, bringing the number of people who have died to 107.

Of those 10 deaths, seven were elderly individuals with underlying health conditions from Colleton (1), Georgetown (1), Greenville (1), Kershaw (2), Lancaster (1), and Spartanburg (1) counties; one was an elderly individual from McCormick County (1) whose health conditions are still under investigation; and two were middle-aged individuals with underlying health conditions from Richland (1) and Sumter (1) counties.

South Carolina currently has 3,656 confirmed coronavirus cases; Greenville has a reported 400 cases.

-Anna Lee

Thursday, April 14

These are the biggest coronavirus headlines affecting Greenville and the Upstate for Tuesday, April 14

Number of cases in Greenville County rises to 373, with 10 deaths.

Twenty seven new cases of COVID-19 have been reported in Greenville County, bringing the total number up to 373, according to the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control. Ten people in the county are now confirmed to have died due to the virus.

Statewide, 3,553 cases have been reported, with 97 confirmed deaths due to the virus.

Luxor Scientific announces COVID-19 antibody testing

COVID-19 antibody testing
Photo provided

Luxor Scientific is offering COVID-19 antibody testing for patients referred by their health care provider at its Greenville laboratory at 1327 Miller Road, Suite F.

The blood-based testing can help determine if an individual currently has or was previously infected with the coronavirus and has developed immunity to COVID-19, which may help the state’s pandemic response.

“Identifying people with immunity to the virus is particularly important for health care workers and others working through this crisis,” said Luxor chief science officer Marion L. Snyder. “If they’ve already been infected, they will likely have immunity to the virus, allowing them to assist in the COVID-19 response with less risk while minimizing exposure to others.”

In addition, physicians have used plasma from previously infected individuals to treat severe COVID-19 patients, and antibody testing could help in identifying potential plasma donors.

“Our guidance is that insurers will cover this testing based on doctors’ orders at no cost to the patient,” said chief strategy officer Jay Flanagan.

-Jeannie Putnam

Emergency supply portal gives critical healthcare items to organizations in need

Organizations in need of supplies to fight against COVID-19 now have a new resource at their fingertips.

The South Carolina Emergency Supply Collaborative web portal connects parties in need of essential supplies and equipment with those that can provide it quickly and efficiently.

The portal allows industry and community partners to gain access to critical medical supplies like face shields, gowns, ventilators and masks.

“We are all in this together,” said SC Secretary of Commerce Bobby Hitt, “and I am proud of the South Carolina business community’s continued response to serve our state during this unprecedented time.”

Launched as a partnership between the SC Department of Commerce, the SC Hospital Association, the SC Manufacturing Extension Partnership and SCBio, the portal acts as a service for both providers and those requesting items.

-Evan Peter Smith

Monday, April 13

These are the biggest coronavirus headlines affecting Greenville and the Upstate for Monday, April 13

Greenville County reports 7 new cases, 2 deaths

Seven new cases of the novel coronavirus have been reported in Greenville County, bringing the total number of cases to 346, according to South Carolina health officials. Two additional deaths were also reported.

Statewide, the state Department of Health and Environmental Health announced 127 cases for Monday and five additional deaths.

That brings the total number of cases in the state to 3,439. A total of 87 people have died.

-Anna Lee

‘Quarantee Shirt’ aims to help small businesses during the lockdown


Call it the reversal of that old adage about giving someone in need the shirt off your back.

With small businesses still struggling under the coronavirus lockdown, some local companies are hoping you’ll just buy a shirt for yourself instead.

Dubbed “the Official Quarantee Shirt,” the T-shirt is on sale for $30, with all profits going to the Greenville Small Business Economic Relief Fund, managed by the Greenville Chamber of Commerce.

Produced by local graphic T-shirt company Dapper Ink, in partnership with Greenville-based marketing agencies Cargo and Cultivator Labs, the shirt combines design and video-based marketing in an effort to assist struggling small businesses.

-Evan Peter Smith

Friday, April 10

These are the biggest coronavirus headlines affecting Greenville and the Upstate for Friday, April 10.

SC colleges, universities to receive millions from federal stimulus package

South Carolina schools are slated to receive millions of dollars from the federal government’s Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, according to a release from the Department of Education.

The $12.56 billion stimulus package will be distributed to schools based on enrollment figures, with at least 50 percent of the funds mandated to go toward student financial aid to cover expenses related to campus shutdown due to the coronavirus.

“I gave my team a charge as soon as the CARES Act was signed into law: get support to those most in need as quickly as possible,” said Education Secretary Betsy Devos in a letter. That starts with college students whose lives have been disrupted, many of whom are facing financial challenges and struggling to make ends meet.

Here’s how much money some local schools will get:

  • University of South Carolina: $21,415,130
  • Clemson: $13,579,995
  • USC Upstate: $6,104,655
  • Bob Jones University: $2,552,058
  • Greenville Tech: $6,663,667
  • Tri-County Technical College: $4,246,483
  • Wofford College: $1,103,905
  • Spartanburg Community College: $3,358,632
Prisma Health
Photo by Irina Rice

Prisma Health has furloughed or reduced the hours of more than 10% of its 30,000 employees because of the coronavirus outbreak, according to a statement issued by the hospital system.

The cuts, which were announced in late March, affect approximately 3,900 workers in the Upstate and Midlands.

“The COVID-19 public health emergency has had a significant impact on our finances and operations,” the statement reads.

Elective cases are down 80%, and physician office visits are down 40%, according to the statement. At the same time, Prisma is incurring significant new costs associated with a rapidly growing number of COVID-19 patients seeking care.

In response, the health system froze capital spending, curtailed spending on non-patient care and furloughed staff not directly involved in the care of COVID-19 patients.

“While the furlough mostly affected non-patient care positions, it also included some clinical areas that have seen a significant decline in the number of patients being treated,” the statement says.

Of the employees affected, 63% were furloughed and 37% are working reduced schedules.

-Anna Lee

Thursday, April 9

These are the biggest coronavirus headlines affecting Greenville and the Upstate for Thursday, April 9.

241 cases, 4 more deaths reported in SC

An additional 241 coronavirus cases have been reported in South Carolina, including four more deaths, according to the state health department.

This brings the total number of people confirmed to have COVID-19 to 2,792, and those who have died to 67.

There were 31 new cases of the virus in Greenville County, bringing the total to 254. At least three people in the county have died.

-Anna Lee

City of Greenville launches virtual concert series

Photo by Will Crooks

The city of Greenville’s two signature concert series, Greenville Heritage Main Street Fridays and Piedmont Natural Gas Downtown Alive, may be postponed due to the COVID-19 outbreak, but that doesn’t mean you won’t be able to enjoy music from some of the performers who were originally on the schedule.

Thanks to the city’s new streaming concert series, called Sound Check, a host of performers, including Brooks Dixon, Kami Ocean & The Rhythm, Vilai Harrington, Nathan Angelo and the Greenville Jazz Collective, will be livestreaming shows from the city’s Greenville Events Facebook page every Thursday and Friday from April 9 to May 1.

-Vincent Harris

Meals on Wheels rethinks exposure

Meals on Wheels © J. Jones Photography – www.joshjonesphoto.com

Meals on Wheels staff was concerned about potential health risks of the COVID-19 virus to its senior clients.

Executive Director Catriona Carlisle said she awoke in the middle of the night and thought, “We need to do a drive-thru and minimize exposure, but we cannot stop.”

Overnight, the staff regrouped, ordered $10,000 worth of trays to prepare frozen foods, made 5,000 meals in one day and were off on a new system.

Drivers now no longer enter the building on Oregon Street but go through the drive-thru to pick up their route. They are given instructions about the “no contact” delivery system. Drivers are to knock on doors and step back at least 6 feet. Meals are hung on the door in a bag. Delivery has changed to Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, with a fresh and frozen meal for each delivery day. Gloves are now used.

-Amy Doyle

Wednesday, April 8

These are the biggest coronavirus headlines affecting Greenville and the Upstate for Wednesday, April 8.

Coronavirus now the No. 1 cause of death in the United States

For the first time, coronavirus has become the No. 1 leading cause of death in the United States, surpassing the daily number of deaths from cancer and heart disease, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control.

On April 7 alone, deaths from the coronavirus numbered 1,941, compared to 1,774 deaths from heart disease and 1,614 deaths from cancer.

If the upper estimates from the White House of 240,000 coronavirus-related deaths occur this year, the virus would be the third highest cause of death in the United States for 2020, behind heart disease (projected to kill nearly 650,00 Americans) and cancer (projected to kill about 600,000 Americans).

-Evan Peter Smith

Greenville County Schools announces new grading scale during COVID-19 closure

Greenville County Schools grades COVID-19
Photo by Greenville County School District.

Amid the COVID-19 crisis, Greenville County Schools recently announced its plan for grading K-12 students for the fourth quarter.

At the end of the school year, students in Pre-K through first grade will receive a semester two report of progress highlighting each student’s strengths and areas of growth while considering both remote learning and work completed before school closure.

Second through fifth graders will receive a second-semester grade in place of a fourth-quarter grade. Middle and high school students will receive a second-semester grade combining third-quarter grades completed at school with participation and engagement grades completed during the closure. Grades will be awarded based on student participation and engagement through completion of work, phone calls, Google Meets and more.

Each student will receive participation grades that correspond with a numerical grade. From second through 12th grades, students will be graded based on these criteria:

  • Meets expectations — grade of 100
  • Approaches expectations — grade of 8
  • Does not meet expectations — grade of 70

Middle and high school students may also be awarded a numerical grade of 50 for the not-handed-in category.

While participation and engagement are being used for awarding grades, teachers will continue to provide feedback to students and may ask them to redo work to support learning.

In addition, high school seniors are expected to have all their work completed on May 15. AP, IB and dual-credit courses will be graded using traditional grading methods since these courses carry potential college credit.

-Jeannie Putnam

Greenville Tech donates supplies to Prisma Health

Greenville Tech donation
Photo provided

Greenville Technical College’s health programs donated more than 50,900 pairs of gloves, 4,005 masks and 480 gowns to Prisma Health to assist the health system’s COVID-19 efforts.

The college is also loaning five ventilators to Prisma Health.

“Our employees recognize the importance of putting tools in the hands of those who need them most and came together quickly to collect supplies across a wide range of programs,” said Greenville Technical College president Keith Miller. “As we train future health care employees, we want to support the heroes on the front lines who are handling this crisis.”

-Jeannie Putnam

Upstate nurse makes face shields from Pepsi bottles

health care workers face shields
Photo provided

With health care workers facing a shortage of masks during the COVID-19 crisis, many Americans have taken to making their own face coverings to help ease the shortage. In the Upstate, Bon Secours Health System family nurse practitioner Elizabeth King and her husband are making face shields out of two-liter Pepsi bottles.

Following the CDC’s recommendation that bandannas could be used by health care workers as a last resort, King went online to research ways to make masks or face shields and found that others were using plastic soda bottles. To see if it could work, she took a bottle and cut off the top and bottom. When she saw that it could work as a shield, she reached out to Pepsi and received an initial donation of 50 two-liter bottles to use for this project. With the bottles in hand, King’s husband went to work.

-Jeannie Putnam

Read the full story

Monday, April 7

J.L. Mann principal tests positive for COVID-19

J.L. Mann High School’s new principle, Charles Mayfield. Greg Beckner/Staff

J.L. Mann High School Principal Charles Mayfield announced via video message to his school that he tested positive for COVID-19 on April 6.

“I am writing you to let you know that my COVID-19 test came back positive,” Mayfield said in a statement. “I have been self-quarantined every day since Friday, March 20. The doctors tell me I can come out of self-quarantine after 72 hours of no fever, which would be Monday, April 6.”

In addition to Mayfield’s announcement, Greenville County Schools halted food prep at Hillcrest High School on April 1 following an employee testing positive for COVID-19. Meals that were supposed to come from Hillcrest were served between April 2-3, but the food was prepared using another site with different employees. All food service staff working at Hillcrest High were told to remain in home quarantine until April 16.

-Jeannie Putnam

SC death toll continues to climb

The state Department of Health and Environmental Control announced 187 new cases of the novel coronavirus, including three additional deaths.

South Carolina is now reporting 2,417 confirmed cases and 51 deaths.

The additional deaths occurred in elderly patients with underlying health conditions. One was a resident of Greenville County and the others were from Lexington County.

Greenville County has 224 confirmed cases, according to DHEC.

-Anna Lee

Monday, April 6

These are the biggest coronavirus headlines affecting Greenville and the Upstate for Monday, April 6.

Gov. Henry McMaster issues mandatory “work or home” order

Photo by Will Crooks

Beginning Tuesday, all South Carolinians are ordered to stay at home or work, unless otherwise engaging in select activities, at the risk of 30 days in jail and/or a $100 fine per violation.

The exceptions to the order include:

  • Obtaining essential goods or services such as groceries or medication
  • Visiting family
  • Exercising but not within six feet of others

Businesses that remain open must limit the number of customers to 20 percent of the building’s fire marshal-mandated occupancy limit.

McMaster announced the order at press conference at 4:30 p.m. on Monday, at the same time the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the state was raised to 2,232.

An average of 187 new infections per day were reported in the past week, an increase from an average of 90 new cases per day reported in the week prior.

-Evan Peter Smith

Swamp Rabbit Trail closes in Greenville

The city of Greenville has announced the Prisma Health Swamp Rabbit Trail will be closed within city limits effective Monday April 6.

“The entire Swamp Rabbit Trail section within the Greenville city limits will be closed until further notice beginning at sundown today, Monday, April 6,” the city announced in a post on social media. “Once received, signs advising the public will be posted at the City/County line and in various locations along the trail. The City continues to send the message to stay home and stay safe.”

According to city spokeswoman Beth Brotherton, the additional public safety measure is necessary because trail usage overall is increasing as more residents take advantage of spring weather and because most of the city’s trail network is only 11 feet wide, which doesn’t allow adequate distance between users.

-Evan Peter Smith

BMW postpones restart of production by three additional weeks

Aerials of factory on 6/4/18 – File: 060318GR56

BMW Manufacturing announced today it is extending its production interruption by three additional weeks. The South Carolina plant had been scheduled to open on April 13, but the plant’s production interruption will be extended through April 30.

The economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has been far reaching, and customer demand for its product has declined considerably. Stay-at-home orders are still active throughout the country and Mexico, which is adversely affecting BMW’s supply chain.

BMW said in the release, “We continue to be concerned about the health and safety of the entire BMW workforce. During this time, additional cleaning and disinfecting will be performed at work stations throughout the plant.”

While operations are suspended, BMW Manufacturing will adjust its production volume, shift models and workforce structure to reflect the changing market. The company will continue to monitor the situation and take appropriate action when it is needed.

-Sherry Jackson

SC jobless claims soar 3,150% amid coronavirus outbreak

More than 64,800 South Carolinians applied for unemployment benefits in the week ending March 28, according to the Department of Employment and Workforce, doubling the all-time record set just one week before as the coronavirus outbreak continued to upend businesses and industry across the state.

The number includes nearly 14,600 new claims in Greenville, Spartanburg, Pickens, Anderson and Oconee counties. Greenville County had the most, with 6,556 claims, followed by Spartanburg with 3,104 claims.

The speed and scale of new claims are unprecedented, said Jamie Suber, chief administrative officer for DEW.

“We’re doing all that we can to expedite the claim-filing process and make the process seamless for those that are truly in need,” Suber said during a recent news conference with Gov. Henry McMaster and other state officials.

The newly released figures represent a staggering 3,150% increase from two weeks prior, which saw just 2,000 initial claims.

Between March 29 and April 2 alone, according to the Department of Employment and Workforce, the state paid out approximately $10 million in unemployment benefits.

-Anna Lee

Friday, April 3

These are the biggest coronavirus headlines affecting Greenville and the Upstate for Friday, April 3.

DHEC releases confirmed coronavirus cases by zip code

State health officials have released a list of confirmed COVID-19 cases by zip code and said they’ll soon have data on the number of estimated cases in South Carolina.

The estimated counts will represent those who are potentially undiagnosed, according to the state Department of Health and Environmental Control.

“By including estimates, we hope to better convey more meaningful information about the risk of disease spread in our community,” DHEC’s website said.

The new data was released as the state’s number of confirmed coronavirus cases grew to 1,700 Friday. Three additional deaths were also reported, bringing the total number of deaths to 34.

The three patients were all elderly individuals with underlying health conditions. Two were residents of Richland County and one of Greenville County.

-Anna Lee

Greenville passes social distancing ordinance

Greenville City Council voted to approve an ordinance that will enforce social distancing requirements on those businesses allowed to stay open under Gov. Henry McMaster’s latest executive order.

The ordinance, which goes into effect Saturday, April 3 will require businesses to

  • Provide hand sanitizer or sanitizing products for employees and customers
  • Implement separate operation hours for the elderly and vulnerable
  • Make regular announcements or have signage in place to remind people to practice social distancing
  • Have an alternative purchasing and delivering system, such as online or phone orders and curbside pickup
  • Allow employees to wear protective masks and gloves

Anyone who violates the ordinance is guilty of a civil infraction and faces a $100 fine. Businesses where repeat violations occur may have their occupancy permits or business licenses revoked and be declared a public nuisance.

-Anna Lee

Thursday, April 2

These are the biggest coronavirus headlines affecting Greenville and the Upstate for Thursday, April 2.

Coronavirus spreads to all 46 counties in the state, 5 new deaths

South Carolina coronavirus cases jumped by 261 Thursday, with state health officials reporting 1,5554 in all 46 counties.

Five more people have died, according to the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control. The deaths were all elderly individuals with underlying health concerns. Two were residents of Florence County, one lived in Anderson, one in Horry and one in Sumter County.

The total number of deaths in the state now stands at 31.

Greenville County reported 25 new cases. The total number of cases in the county now stands at 154.

Here’s a full interactive map of all positive cases in counties across South Carolina.

-Evan Peter Smith

BlueCross BlueShield waiving out-of-pocket costs for COVID-19

BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina and BlueChoice HealthPlan announced that its members will not have to pay out-of-pocket costs related to in-network COVID-19 medical treatment through June 1.

Those benefiting from this expansion of coverage include individual policy holders, Medicare Advantage plan members, Medicaid members and fully insured employer group customers. The companies are also working with their self-funded ERISA customers to ensure that those customers’ needs are being met.

“Because we are in the middle of an unprecedented health crisis, we wanted to further support our members during this challenging and stressful time,” president and CEO of BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina David Pankau said. “Removing some of the worry associated with costs was one way we could do that.”

-Jeannie Putnam

Greenville County ranks worst for travel precautions during pandemic, New York Times report says

The people of Greenville County are not staying at home during the coronavirus pandemic, according to a report from the New York Times.

In fact, out of all counties across the United States with populations 500,000 or greater, Greenville ranks as the very worst county in terms of its citizens following stay-at-home recommendations.

The report, released Thursday April 2, said the average travel for a Greenville County resident was 3.4 miles on March 27, the day the report studied. Location data was gathered through Cueiq, a data intelligence firm that measures how much people travel each day.

The article mentioned Spartanburg County as well, where “people were still going to the hardware store to buy supplies for home-improvement projects, and pictures from children’s birthday parties and playdates were being posted on Facebook.”

-Evan Peter Smith

Greenville may require businesses to keep customers 6 feet apart

The city of Greenville wants to make it illegal for businesses to allow less than 6 feet of distance between people in its latest measure to tame the fast-spreading novel coronavirus that has sickened more than 1,293 people in South Carolina and 129 in Greenville County.

Greenville City Council is expected to vote on the ordinance Friday that will enforce social distancing requirements on those businesses allowed to stay open under Gov. Henry McMaster’s latest executive order, which closed barber shops and bowling alleys but allowed essential businesses like grocery stores and home improvement stores to remain open.

The ordinance also explicitly calls on the governor to order a 14-day statewide “stay-at-home” order similar to those already in place in many states.

Violators would be fined $100. Businesses where repeat violations occur may have their occupancy permit or business license revoked and be declared a public nuisance.

-Anna Lee

Wednesday, April 1

These are the biggest coronavirus headlines affecting Greenville and the Upstate for Wednesday, April 1.

SC coronavirus cases jump by more than 200

South Carolina coronavirus cases jumped by more than 200 Wednesday as state health officials reported 1,293 cases in 43 of the state’s 46 counties.

An additional four deaths related to COVID-19 were also reported, bringing the state’s total number of deaths to 26.

The four patients were all elderly individuals who had underlying health conditions. They were residents of Anderson, Beaufort, Lee, and Richland counties.

“Every day that we unfortunately have to report these losses is a reminder of how serious this situation is and the obligation we all have to help prevent the loss of additional South Carolinians,” Brannon Traxler, DHEC medical consultant. “Social distancing and staying home can help save lives.”

Greenville County reported 23 new cases. There are currently 129 total cases in the county.

-Anna Lee

Prisma Health, Bon Secours announce furloughs amid COVID-19 outbreak

Greenville’s two major health systems have announced furloughs amid the coronavirus outbreak that has sickened more than 1,000 people statewide.

Prisma Health began instituting furloughs on Friday, March 27. In a statement, Prisma said the furloughs were necessary due to the negative impact the COVID-19 health crisis is having on its business operations.

“The number of elective cases, which generate a major portion of our income, has decreased dramatically in the past two weeks,” the statement said. “Additionally, we are incurring significant new costs associated with the rapidly increasing number of COVID-19 patients who are seeking care.”

Prisma said the furloughs would affect a number of Prisma Health team members in every department but didn’t specify how many employees would be impacted.

-Anna Lee

North Greenville Hospital temporarily closes ER

The emergency department at North Greenville Hospital will temporarily close starting Sunday, April 5 and will remain closed for the duration of the COVID-19 health crisis.

The hospital’s outpatient departments, such as radiology and laboratory services, will also temporarily close.

A Prisma Health ambulance and its paramedic crew will be based at the hospital to assist with any medical emergencies during the temporary closure. Prisma Health officials said the closure was due to changing staffing needs.

-Anna Lee

Greenlink enforces 10-person limit on buses


No more than 10 passengers will be allowed on fixed-route buses operated by Greenlink beginning Thursday, April 2.

In a news release, Greenlink said the limit will allow the public transit system to meet social distancing requirements.

This means bus drivers will bypass bus stops if their bus is at maximum capacity and won’t allow customers to board until an existing passenger disembarks.

To maintain the 10-passenger limit, seats will be available on a first-come, first-served basis. However, Greenlink urges customers to heed state and local officials’ calls to stay home and use the bus service for essential trips only.

-Anna Lee

Tuesday, March 31

These are the biggest coronavirus headlines affecting Greenville and the Upstate for Tuesday, March 31.

Gov. McMaster issues order closing ‘non-essential businesses’

South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster issued an emergency order closing all “non-essential” businesses for 15 days, beginning April 1, in an effort to stall the spread of the coronavirus.

McMaster announced the order at a press conference just after 4 p.m. Tuesday.

“There are a lot of things that towns and municipalities can do in that area to try to spread the knowledge about social distancing,” McMaster said in his announcement, specifically addressing Greenville’s ordinance, “and they’re within their limits to make certain ordinances.”

The “non-essential” businesses have been separated into three categories: entertainment venues; athletic facilities and activities; and close contact service providers.

Here’s the full list outlined by McMaster that will be forced to close under the emergency order.

Entertainment venues

Night clubs, bowling alleys, arcades, concert venues, theaters, auditoriums, performing arts centers, tourist attractions, racetracks, indoor children’s play areas (not including daycare), adult entertainment venues, bingo halls, and social clubs.

Athletic facilities and activities

All sports requiring interaction with another person closer than six feet, activities requiring shared equipment, activities on commercial of public playground equipment

Close-contact service providers

Barber shops, hair salons, waxing salons, threading salons, nail salons, spas, body art facilities, tattoo shops, tanning salons, massage establishments, and massage services

-Evan Peter Smith

City postpones vote on stay-at-home ordinance

Photo by Irina Rice

The announcement from Gov. McMaster closing all non-essential businesses came at the same time Greenville City Council was set to hold a special meeting over an ordinance that would implement a 15-day city-wide stay-at-home order. That meeting was postponed so that city council could wait to hear what McMaster would announce.

“There are a lot of things that towns and municipalities can do in that area to try to spread the knowledge about social distancing,” McMaster said in his announcement, specifically addressing Greenville’s ordinance, “and they’re within their limits to make certain ordinances.”

While not technically being a “stay-at-home” order, McMaster stressed that all South Carolinians should stay at home unless absolutely necessary to go out.

The city has not yet announced whether it will still go forward with its planned stay-at-home ordinance.

-Evan Peter Smith

Prisma Health, Bon Secours furlough employees amid coronavirus outbreak

Prisma Health
Photo by Irina Rice

Bon Secours announced its furloughs on Monday, March 31, saying employees not directly working on the COVID-19 response would be temporarily furloughed.

“Our ministry is acting quickly to redeploy or temporarily furlough associates who are unable to work due to temporary closure, cancellation and low census in primary care, outpatient and surgical services,” Bon Secours said in a statement.

The temporary furlough is expected to last 30 to 90 days. Employees will be eligible for unemployment benefits, while the Bon Secours Mercy Health Foundation has provided $60 million to help workers facing serious financial challenges.

“The efforts of our entire team, combined with the tough decisions we are making today, will enable us to continue to focus on the COVID-19 response, which we expect to escalate in the coming weeks,” Bon Secours said.

-Jeannie Putnam

Monday, March 30

These are the biggest coronavirus headlines affecting Greenville and the Upstate for Tuesday, March 31.

City of Greenville to weigh ‘stay-at-home’ law

Greenville City Council is expected to vote on an emergency ‘stay-at-home’ ordinance Tuesday that will require social distancing practices and close non-essential businesses.

If passed, the ordinance would go into effect at 12:01 a.m. Thursday, April 2. It would require individuals to stay in their homes and “not travel through or congregate in the streets, sidewalks, and/or public spaces” in the city of Greenville except to conduct business with an “essential service.”

A draft version of the ordinance listing those exceptions includes banks, real estate brokers, commercial and residential construction, news media, most health care operations, including veterinary care, utility services, grocery stores and manufacturing plants, among others.

The ordinance allows for outdoor activities, provided that they allow for social distancing, don’t involve coming into close contact with other people or use shared equipment.

The ordinance would expire after 15 days. The Greenville Journal will be reporting more on this ordinance Tuesday.

-Anna Lee

SC’s death toll in rises to 18

The state Department of Health and Environmental Control announced two additional deaths related to the novel coronavirus, bringing the state’s total number of deaths to 18.

One patient was an elderly individual from Beaufort County who had underlying health conditions. The other patient was an elderly individual from Anderson County also with underlying health conditions, DHEC said in a release.

In addition, the health department reported 151 additional cases of COVID-19. As of Monday, the total number statewide is 925 cases in 41 of the state’s 46 counties.

“If we all don’t follow the guidance for social distancing and staying home, then we can anticipate seeing higher rates of cases similar to what we’ve seen in other states,” DHEC physician Brannon Traxler said.

Greenville County currently has 88 reported cases.

-Anna Lee

Food supply chain remains ‘stable and robust’

Food supply coronavirus
Stock photo

There is plenty of food.

That’s the simple message from South Carolina Department of Agriculture Commissioner Hugh Weathers. He hopes it will reassure people all over the state, as empty shelves at grocery stores and certain limitations in food supplies have raised concerns over the food supply chain’s durability amid the coronavirus outbreak.

“We’ve been hearing those concerns on the media and on social media,” Weathers said during a weekly public address. “Folks see some empty retail shelves, which might from time to time show that impact, but there’s a truckload of something coming pretty quickly to replace it.”

Weathers said the Department of Agriculture is checking regularly with farmers, transporters and wholesalers across the country to ensure not only that the food supply chain is operating smoothly, but that any information being released to the public is “absolutely accurate.”

-Evan Peter Smith

North Greenville University cancels all events through spring semester

North Greenville University recently announced that it will extend its modified operations through May 3, continuing online instruction through the end of spring semester while canceling all public events including May commencement.

“We realize that these actions are deeply disappointing to students and their families, particularly those who are about to graduate and were looking forward to a final semester on campus,” Gene Fant Jr., the university’s president, said in a statement. “We share your belief that this is incredibly difficult. I personally hate it so much.”

May graduates will be allowed to participate in a special graduation ceremony during North Greenville’s 2020 homecoming, the fall 2020 commencement service, or the spring 2021 commencement service.

In addition to all remaining spring semester events being canceled, the university’s Tigerville and Greer campuses will remain closed to the public.

-Jeannie Putnam

Friday, March 27

These are the biggest coronavirus headlines affecting Greenville and the Upstate for Friday, March 27.

First coronavirus death reported in Greenville

A Greenville County resident has died after contracting the coronavirus.

The first death in the county related to the virus was reported by Department of Health and Environmental Control Regional Director Tracy Murphy during a public address on Friday, March 27.

There are 51 lab-confirmed cases of coronavirus in Greenville County as of the most recent data released by DHEC.

“There will be more cases,” Murphy said. “Unfortunately there will be more deaths.”

-Evan Peter Smith

Greenville Mayor Knox White mayor anticipates statewide shutdown

Greenville Mayor Knox White
Photo by Evan Peter Smith

South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson announced local governments do not have the authority to exercise emergency powers such as “stay at home” ordinances or other city- or countywide lockdowns. Citing legal precedent from 1980, Wilson said only the governor had the authority to enact such emergency powers under Section 25-1-440 in the South Carolina state constitution.

Greenville Mayor Knox White said he anticipates a statewide “stay at home” order. It’s “a matter of when, not if.”

“I think it could well be inevitable,” White said. “We’ll be ready for that when it comes. We’ll continue to advocate to take very strong measures to encourage people to stay at home.”

White said specific businesses like salons or barber shops will likely be ordered to close even earlier.

-Evan Peter Smith

Cleveland Park in Greenville to close

Yet another public park will be closed to the public.

On Friday, the city of Greenville announced the closure of Cleveland Park beginning at 9 p.m.

Police will patrol the park and close the gates after all guests depart, said city spokesperson Beth Brotherton.

“The city of Greenville continues to send the message stay home, stay safe,” she said.

Falls Park, downtown Greenville’s signature park, was closed earlier this week, as was the Liberty Bridge.

The Swamp Rabbit Trail remains open for now and will be routed around Falls and Cleveland parks.

-Anna Lee

SC state parks to close through April 30

Jones Gap State Park officially opened to the public in January 1989. Today, it boasts nearly 4,000 acres of land that’s home to more than 600 kinds of wildflowers and 60 types of mammals. Photo courtesy of Mac Stone Photography

Starting Saturday, March 28, all state parks in South Carolina will be closed through April 30.

“The closure is designed to keep visitors and employees as safe as possible by mitigating the spread of the coronavirus,” state parks spokeswoman Dawn Dawson-House said in a release.

Visitors who are currently occupying campsites and cabins can remain through the duration of their rental reservation as long as they continue to practice the state’s recommendations for social distancing.

All new reservation arrivals from March 28 to April 30 will be canceled and refunds issued.

-Anna Lee

Thursday, March 26

These are the biggest coronavirus headlines affecting Greenville and the Upstate for Thursday, March 26.

Two more COVID-19 related deaths reported in SC

South Carolina health officials announced two new deaths related to COVID-19, bringing the state’s total number of deaths to nine.

One of the deaths was an elderly person from Kershaw County with underlying health conditions. The second was an elderly person from Sumter County who also had underlying health conditions.

Meanwhile, the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in South Carolina rose to 456, up 32 from Wednesday.

The fluctuation in the number of new cases day to day reflects the availability of chemicals needed for laboratories to perform the testing, state epidemiologist Linda Bell said.

-Anna Lee

Clemson University says an individual has tested posted for coronavirus

Clemson University has received confirmation that an individual affiliated with the university has tested positive for COVID-19.

CU SAFE ALERT: An individual affiliated with Clemson University has tested positive for COVID-19. Additional information is available at https://t.co/rxxvptP68x.

— Clemson University Public Safety (@ClemsonSafety) March 26, 2020

The individual self-identified upon having symptoms and has not been in any university building since becoming symptomatic. The person is currently self-quarantining at home, according to a news release.

Those who have come in direct contact with the patient have been notified, have been in self-quarantine since that time and have not shown any symptoms.

-Anna Lee

Prisma Health develops ‘lifesaving’ ventilator device

The VESper device allows one ventilator to be used on up to four patients. – Provided

A team of doctors at Prisma Health has developed a device that allows a single ventilator to be used on up to four patients, potentially saving thousands of lives in the midst of the current COVID-19 pandemic.

Prisma Health officials announced that the device, dubbed the VESper, or ventilation expansion splitter, had received emergency use authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

“We believe the device can be lifesaving,” said Peter Tilkemeier, chair of the Department of Medicine at Prisma Health-Upstate.

Produced using 3D printing technology, the device is developed with material already used in existing medical devices and produced at minimal cost.

-Anna Lee

Grocery stores change hours, impose restrictions during COVID-19 outbreak

Amid the coronavirus pandemic, grocery stores are getting cleared of essential items as shoppers empty shelves of everything from frozen waffles to dill relish.

Facing the surge of demand, many Greenville-area grocery stores are limiting purchases of items to try to tamp down hoarding. Others, including Walmart, Ingles and Publix, have changed their store hours, giving them more time to restock shelves.

Read more about what changes to expect the next time you decide to brave the aisles.

-Anna Lee

Wednesday, March 26

These are the biggest coronavirus headlines affecting Greenville and the Upstate for Wednesday, March 25. 

DHEC projecting 8,000 coronavirus cases in SC by May 2

CDC photo by Daniel Drapeau

South Carolina health officials are expecting the number of COVID-19 cases in the state to grow exponentially, with the latest projections showing more than 8,000 cases by May 2.

The projected numbers were announced Wednesday afternoon as the state Department of Health and Environmental Control investigates 82 additional cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.

That brings the statewide total up to 424 cases in 39 of the state’s 46 counties as of March 25th.

DHEC’s data is projecting 2,657 total cases by April 2 and 8,053 cases by May 2.

-Anna Lee

Local municipalities declare a state of emergency

In response to the COVID-19 outbreak, the cities of Mauldin and Fountain Inn have declared a state of emergency within their city limits through May 23 and the cities of Simpsonville and Greer approved a similar ordinance that will continue through May 24.

During this 60-day period, all four cities will be able to hold city council meetings via teleconferencing without public attendance.

-Jeannie Putnam

Waffle House is closing locations, signaling trouble ahead

Whenever a Waffle House shuts its doors in the lead-up to a potential disaster or in the aftermath of one, it’s a sign the Federal Emergency Management Agency takes seriously.

If that sounds like a joke, it’s not. It’s actually a legitimate metric used by FEMA to determine the likely scale of assistance needed for disaster recovery. There’s even a name for that metric: The Waffle House Index. Right now, as the restaurant chain has just closed nearly 500 of its nearly 2,000 restaurants, that index is at threat level “Red.”

Read about which local Waffle House locations are being closed, and why that’s an important signifier for what to expect from businesses in the months ahead.

-Evan Peter Smith

Frontier suspends flights from GSP Airport

Frontier Airlines, the ultra low-cost carrier headquartered in Denver, Colorado, is suspending service to Greenville-Spartanburg International Airport effective April 19, an airport official said.

Tom Tyra, director of communications at GSP Airport, said the announcement came “in response to the dramatic drop in passenger demand arising from COVID-19.”

Frontier began service to GSP Airport in September 2018 and offered service to Denver and Orlando on a less than daily basis, according to Tyra.

“We are disappointed that service has been interrupted, but given the difficult environment in which airlines are operating in today, the decision is understandable,” Tyra said in an email.

Passengers with tickets after April 19 will be contacted by Frontier for re-accommodation.

Tuesday, March 24

These are the biggest coronavirus headlines affecting Greenville and the Upstate for Tuesday, March 24. 

Greenville County Schools closed through end of April

Students, parents, administrators and teachers show their excitement for the first day of school in Greenville County public schools. Photos by Greenville County School District.

Greenville County Schools will be closed through April 30 following Gov. Henry McMaster and State Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman’s announcement that South Carolina schools would remain closed through the end of next month.

“We understand that the prospect of schools remaining closed for an extended period of time places stress and strain on parents and children. Rest assured, if there is any way to safely open our schools earlier, we will do that, but schools must remain closed to protect the health and safety of South Carolinians,” McMaster and Spearman said in a joint statement.

In preparation for the extended closure, Greenville County teachers are providing lessons via Google Classroom or Echo to ensure students in grades 3-12 continue to master content while younger students will be provided printable packets through teacher websites.

-Jeannie Putnam, Anna Lee

Downtown Greenville under curfew, Falls Parks closed

Photo by Will Crooks

A nighttime curfew will be enforced in Greenville’s central business district in an effort to “get out in front of” the fast-spreading COVID-19 virus.

The 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew goes into effect Wednesday, March 25 and expires in 60 days.

The city is also closing Falls Park after Mayor Knox White and several City Council members expressed concern over the large crowds that had flocked to downtown Greenville and Falls Park over the weekend.

-Anna Lee

44 new coronavirus cases reported in SC

The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control is investigating 44 new cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, the department announced Tuesday afternoon. Eight new cases are in Greenville County, bringing the total number of cases to 39. Anderson and Spartanburg counties each had one new case.

The newly-released numbers bring the state’s tally to 342 cases in 36 counties, according to DHEC’s latest release.

-Anna Lee

SC state parks to close for 2 days

Jones Gap State Park officially opened to the public in January 1989. Today, it boasts nearly 4,000 acres of land that’s home to more than 600 kinds of wildflowers and 60 types of mammals. Photo courtesy of Mac Stone Photography.

Citing a reduction in staff and an increasing number of visitors, the state’s park service announced that all South Carolina state parks will be closed March 25-26.

“These closures will help our staff recover from the additional workload that has been required and give us an opportunity to make decisions on how to operate parks while keeping employees safe. We ask for your patience and understanding as we work through some operational issues due to these closing,” South Carolina State Parks said in a statement.

-Jeannie Putnam

Monday, March 23

These are the biggest coronavirus headlines affecting Greenville and the Upstate for Monday, March 23. 

Prisma Health now offering virtual COVID-19 screening

If you are exhibiting symptoms of the disease, head over to Prisma Health and use promo code COVID19 for a free online visit, or use MUSC.care and use promo code COVID19 to speak to an online virtual care provider

Widespread closures, postponed events continue

All over the Upstate, city and county spaces are being restricted as the number of cases of coronavirus spread throughout the region. Check out the full list of closures on our community updates page. Here in Greenville, all city volleyball, basketball and tennis courts are closed starting today in an effort to reduce gatherings, said city spokesperson Beth Brotherton. The city is keeping its parks open but has banned the use of its playground and fitness equipment.

-Anna Lee

South Carolina suspends students testing this spring

Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the South Carolina Department of Education announced that the United States Department of Education has approved its request to suspend student assessments this spring.

As part of the waiver, elementary and middle school students will not have to take the SC READY and SCPASS assessments; end-of-course examination programs in English, algebra, biology, U.S. history and the constitution will not be administered and the requirement that these examinations count 20 percent of a student’s final grade has been waived; and prekindergarten assessments and alternate assessments will not be required at this time.

-Jeannie Putnam

Greenville restaurant workers volunteer to lift up one another

Grilled chicken, mac and cheese and green beans. That’s what was being handed out on Monday to laid-off service industry workers, more than 100 meals in total, passed by gloved hands through car windows, free of charge.

It won’t pay the rent, nor will it solve the greater problems laid-off workers are now facing, as restrictions on restaurants continue during the coronavirus pandemic.

“But it’s an important sentiment,” said Chase Orsini-Liberatore, a laid-off bartender formerly of Bacon Bros. who stopped by to pick up a free meal. “The heart and the care it symbolizes is worth way more than the meal itself.”

Read the full story about the meal giveaway.

-Evan Peter Smith

Friday, March 20

These are the biggest coronavirus headlines affecting Greenville and the Upstate for Friday, March 20. 

SC reports 2 deaths, 45 new coronavirus cases

The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control is investigating 45 additional cases of the novel coronavirus, bringing the state’s total number of cases to 125 as of Friday afternoon.

Cases have now been reported in 25 of the state’s 46 counties, state health officials said. Aiken, Berkeley, Clarendon, Darlington, Florence, Orangeburg, Pickens and Sumter counties all reported their first cases Friday. The Upstate now has a total of 21 cases, 12 of which are in Greenville County.

Later Friday night, the health department also reported the state’s second and third COVID-19 related deaths.

One patient was an elderly person with an underlying health condition from Florence County. The other patient was an elderly person with an underlying health condition from Charleston County who was a resident of Harmony Assisted Living Facility.

“It is never easy to have to report on the deaths of fellow members of our community,”said DHEC state epidemiologist Linda Bell. “We must continue to do all that we can to protect ourselves and those around us from illness by taking precautions to limit the spread of germs. This is especially important for those at higher risk, like the elderly and people with serious underlying health conditions.”

-Alex Cooper, Anna Lee

BMW to temporarily shut down Greer plant

Aerials of factory on 6/4/18 – File: 060318GR56

BMW announced late Friday that it will temporarily shut down its manufacturing facility in Spartanburg County starting April 3.

In a statement, the company said it expected the suspension of production to until April 19.

“The health and protection of our associates is our top priority,” the statement said. “At the same time, the dynamic development of the [coronavirus] pandemic is having a major impact on the global demand for cars. BMW Manufacturing is taking a flexible approach and adjusting our production volumes accordingly.”

-Alex Cooper

ZF Transmissions halts production over coronavirus concerns

ZF Transmissions has suspended production at its Gray Court facility due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the company said Friday.

“The current situation is of course very dynamic,” said Tony Sapienza, head of communications for ZF North America. “As a just-in-time business, when our auto manufacturer customers shut down that shuts us down very quickly.”

The news comes after Fiat Chrysler Automobiles along with GM and Ford decided to partially shut down to prevent the potential spread of coronavirus. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles is the plant’s largest customer.

-Alex Cooper

Mauldin closes all parks, public buildings

The city of Mauldin is closing all parks to the public, effective immediately. The city made the announcement on its social media pages Friday afternoon. Mauldin’s public buildings, including the Mauldin Cultural Center and Mauldin Sports Center, are also closed.

All classes, rehearsals and meetings that take place at the Mauldin Cultural Center will be canceled until April 6. The city said it will re-evaluate the COVID-19 outbreak on April 6 to determine its next course of action.

-Anna Lee

No penalties for late hospitality tax payments in city of Greenville

Irina Rice/Greenville Journal

Greenville Mayor Knox White has announced that penalties for late payments of local accommodations fees and hospitality taxes for the March 20 and April 20 reporting periods have been suspended.

If filings are made to the city by the appropriate due dates, late fees will not be accrued until May 21, 2020.

White said the city wanted local businesses to be able to take care of their employees and make payroll instead of paying taxes and fees that were due Friday.  “Our businesses are facing incredible hardships,” he said in a statement.

Thursday, March 19

These are the biggest coronavirus headlines affecting Greenville and the Upstate for Thursday, March 19.

12 cases of COVID-19 reported in the Upstate

The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control is investigating 21 additional cases of the COVID-19 novel, the department said on Thursday, March 19. Four of the newly reported cases are in Greenville County and one is from Abbeville County.

The mean there are 81 cases in the state across 17 counties. Twelve of these cases are in the Upstate.

You can find out more information about COVID-19 on

-Alex Cooper

Clemson goes online for rest of semester, postpones commencement

Clemson University has announced new measures in the face of the growing COVID-19 pandemic, the university announced on Thursday, March 19. These include the postponement of commencement ceremonies and keeping courses online for the rest of the semester.

“I know these actions, while necessary, will inconvenience many and may prove to be a burden for some among the Clemson family, but we are there for you,” said university president Jim Clements.

-Alex Cooper

From the publisher

In a time when social distancing has become a new normal and our daily lives continue to be impacted by the coronavirus, we all find ourselves in an unprecedented situation.

At Community Journals, we have always stressed the importance of supporting local businesses. We implore our readers now, more than ever, to shop and support local businesses.

Read more here.

-Mark Johnston

Nonprofits reorganize after canceled fundraisers due to COVID-19

Events across the Upstate have been canceled or postponed due to the outbreak of , and those cancellations have affected the fundraising efforts of nonprofit organizations.

Several groups have had to cancel large-scale events that provide a significant portion of their fundraising goals. Now, these organizations are having to shift gears in order to maintain their targets and continue the important work they do. 

Two organizations that are having to adjust their fundraising here in the Upstate include the Cancer Survivors Park Alliance and the American Heart Association. 

-Alex Cooper

Wednesday, March 18

These are the biggest coronavirus headlines affecting Greenville and the Upstate for Wednesday, March 18.

Haywood Mall to close until end of March

Entrance to Haywood Mall
Photo by Will Crooks

Haywood Mall will close until March 29 starting on Wednesday, March 18, at 7 p.m., its corporate owner announced.

Simon Property Group released a statement on its website that said it had discussed the matter with federal, state and local government officials as well as understanding the need to stem the spread of the new coronavirus.

The company will close all of its retail properties, which also includes the Gaffney Outlet Marketplace.

“The health and safety of our shoppers, retailers and employees are of paramount importance, and we are taking this step to help reduce the spread of COVID-19 in our communities,” said David Simon, chairman, CEO and president of Simon Property Group, in the statement.

-Alex Cooper

5 total cases of COVID-19 reported in the Upstate

The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control is investigating 14 additional cases of the COVID-19 novel , the department said on Tuesday, March 17. Out of the new cases, one is from Greenville County.

The newly released numbers mean there are 47 reported cases in the state across 13 counties. Five of these cases are in the Upstate.

“We emphasize the importance of practicing disease prevention measures and following recommendations for social distancing to protect our community as a whole,” Linda Bell, a state epidemiologist, said earlier in the week.

-Alex Cooper

Downtown Greenville’s Artisphere postponed until August

Photo by Will Crooks

Downtown Greenville’s high-profile Artisphere festival, originally scheduled for May 8-10, will now be held in August.

The new weekend, Aug. 21-23, is the first weekend after Greenville County students go back to school, said Taryn Scher, a festival spokesperson.

“The 135 artists that were selected for artist’s row from more than 990 applicants are being contacted to confirm they are available for the new dates,” Scher said.

-Anna Lee

GSP Airport open for business, with some changes

Except for a few modifications, Greenville-Spartanburg International Airport will continue to operate at a normal capacity during the COVID-19 outbreak, airport officials said.

To limit the spread of germs, the airport has adopted “increased sanitation efforts” in addition to its routine cleaning and disinfecting procedures, said Dave Edwards, the airport’s president and CEO.

“Around the terminal building, you’ll notice more frequent cleanings, additional hand sanitizer stations and informational signage,” Edwards said in a release.

The airport has also closed its Economy Lot A and temporarily suspended valet parking services, citing a national and local decrease in demand for air travel. Valet service will remain available for returning passengers. The Economy Lot A shuttle service will also be available for those who need to pick up their vehicles.

In addition, Economy Lot B shuttle service will be temporarily suspended starting Monday, March 23. Parking remains available in Garages A and B, the Sky Lots, Economy Lot B and the Daily Lot.

-Anna Lee

#CarryOutWednesday aims to lift up area restaurants

Gather GVL
Gather GVL, a once-bustling food venue, is now ghostly quiet as the crowds stay home due to the coronavirus pandemic. Photo by Evan Peter Smith

The grassroots effort #CarryOutWednesday is calling on the community to support local restaurants hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic by ordering pickup or delivery on Wednesdays until the crisis passes.

With both Mayor Knox White and South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster placing restrictions on dine-in seating, local restaurants are limited to only offering curbside pickup, take-out or delivery.

That means places like Gather GVL, the open-air food court that opened to large crowds just one month ago, are now essentially empty.

“To experience an unexpected and nearly complete shutdown of our business has been devastating to our family and the more than 50 employees across our five restaurants,” said Paul Klassen, co-owner of HenDough, one of the restaurant tenants at Gather GVL.

-Evan Peter Smith

Tuesday, March 17

These are the biggest coronavirus headlines affecting Greenville and the Upstate for Tuesday, March 17.

Gov. Henry McMaster restricts service at SC bars, restaurants

Restaurants and bars across the state were ordered to close their dine-in services starting Wednesday in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19. The order, given by Gov. Henry McMaster at a Tuesday afternoon news briefing, bans all restaurants and bars from serving food and drinks for consumption on-site. Businesses were encouraged to offer delivery, drive-thru and to-go options.

McMaster’s order came shortly after Greenville Mayor Knox White issued an emergency proclamation with similar restrictions on the city’s restaurants, bars and breweries.

It was the first time White has used emergency powers while serving as mayor, he said. Greenville’s restrictions could extend to other businesses.

-Anna Lee

SC reports 47 cases of coronavirus

The state Department of Health and Environmental Control is investigating 14 additional cases of the COVID-19 novel coronavirus, the department said on Tuesday, March 17. Out of the new cases, one is from Greenville County, bringing the county’s total number of cases to two.

The newly released numbers mean there are 47 reported cases in the state across 13 counties. The state reported its first COVID-19 related death last week.

-Alex Cooper

Prisma Health converts North Greenville Medical Campus into coronavirus hospital

Photo by Irina Rice

Prisma Health North Greenville Hospital will be turned into a dedicated facility for potential or confirmed COVID-19 patients, the health system announced. Prisma Health said the move would help them deal with the increasing number of suspected cases of COVID-19.

“We hope it’s not needed, but we want it to be available if we see that it’s necessary,” said Wendell James III, the chief clinical officer for Prisma Health-Upstate.

Teams at North Greenville Hospital are making the long-term acute care area into several negative-pressure units, which will essentially make each unit its own isolation area to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Potential COVID-19 patients will be housed away from the rest of the hospital and with a separate entrance.

-Alex Cooper

County meetings canceled, family court postponed

Photo by Evan Peter Smith

All Greenville County Council meetings are postponed for the foreseeable future. This includes all committee meetings, special called meetings and public hearings.

The announcement of the countywide postponements, sent out in the form of an email on Monday, March 16, came just after the state Department of Health and Environmental Control reported South Carolina’s first death related to the COVID-19 virus.

Family court hearings have also been postponed, except for those related to emergency matters, according to an order from South Carolina Chief Justice Donald W. Beatty.

-Evan Peter Smith

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