The first cases of COVID-19 were reported in the United States almost a year ago. Since, the City of West Columbia, like other municipalities, has been proactive in taking the necessary precautions to fight the spread of the virus.
City leaders have also worked to limit the inconvenience caused by the pandemic. Online payments for permitting, tickets, and business licenses were available. City services have remained available and consistent.
The West Columbia City Council voted, at a special meeting on Dec. 30, to extend an Emergency Ordinance to Suspend the Normal Operating Procedures of West Columbia City Council Meetings. Council also voted to extend an Emergency Ordinance to Require Face Coverings. Both are set to expire on March 2.
City Council, who has consulted with professionals from Lexington Medical Center, said data indicates a lower rate of the spread of COVID when masks are required.
Factors including a decrease in COVID cases and the development of a vaccine will play a part in the duration of the city’s mask ordinance.
Lexington Medical Center was the first hospital in the state to receive the COVID vaccine in December. The first phase of the vaccination process is being conducted currently.
There have been close to 299,000 COVID tests administered in Lexington County as of Wed. Jan. 27, according to the SC Department of Health and Environmental Control. Less than 36,000 of those tests were positive. The rate of COVID infection in the county is 16.6 percent. Lexington County’s positive test rate is lower than all of the counties surrounding it, including Richland, Orangeburg, Aiken, Newberry and Saluda.
Before the Christmas break, Lexington Two schools in West Columbia, returned to a five-day, in-person class schedule. On Jan. 19, after two weeks of virtual only classes, those schools resumed a five-day, in-person class schedule. According to DHEC data, there were 31 positive test cases of COVID among the district’s 8,500 students in the second week of January.
West Columbia businesses have weathered the storm, too.
With the mask ordinances still in place, and the lifting of a decree from S.C. Gov. Henry McMaster, West Columbia businesses have been able to reopen.
At the beginning of the pandemic, many businesses were closed or had restrictions placed on them that limited social gathering.
Throughout the lockdown of 2020, the City of West Columbia’s Meeting Street Artisan Market continued to support local vendors with a socially distanced market and continue to offer items for sale each Saturday from 9:30 a.m. until 1:30 p.m. The open-air market has vendors selling handmade cloth masks, jewelry, soaps, candles, and artwork, along with many other items.
To persevere under state-imposed prohibitions, West Columbia restaurants became more creative.
Palate, Grecian Gardens, Compton’s, Bricks and Stones Pizza, Zesto, and Buttercream Dreams offered take-out orders. Al’s Upstairs, Terra, and Black Rooster closed for a while, but all have reopened and are following safety protocols issued by DHEC and the CDC to reduce the spread of COVID.
Cafe Strudel, during the most-restrictive part of the lockdown, operated a food truck in several West Columbia neighborhoods. Other businesses, like Cherry’s Delight and Outdoor Wood Furniture generated more online business, serving those at home with time to shop.
The COVID crisis is not over, but prevention efforts are shifting to target more vulnerable segments of the population. Moving forward, the City of West Columbia continues to closely monitor trends to be as safe as possible, while providing minimal disruptions for the city’s residents.