COVID-19 outbreak causes concerns at Coastal Center in Summerville

VIDEO: COVID-19 outbreak causes concerns at Coastal Center in Summerville

SUMMERVILLE, S.C. (WCSC) - More coronavirus concerns are cropping up at a state-run facility that serves roughly 140 people with disabilities and special needs in Dorchester County.

The Coastal Regional Center in Summerville is now in the midst of a COVID-19 outbreak, according to several employees. The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control’s dashboard now lists active outbreaks within the Highlands 510 and Highlands Hillside areas of the facility.

The Coastal Center is operated by the South Carolina Department of Disabilities and Special Needs. The COVID-19 concerns were briefly mentioned by DDSN Associate State Director Rufus Britt close to an hour into the agency’s commission meeting on Thursday, which was only accessible to members of the public through an audio stream.

“We’re starting to see an uptick in confirmed positives in individuals displaying the signs and symptoms of illness in a couple dorms at the Coastal Center,” said Britt, who added that this trend began last week and that the “Coastal Center has a couple dorms on quarantine.”

DDSN administrators have not responded to multiple questions from Live 5 News about the current outbreak at the facility.

Over the summer, Live 5 News first revealed that there were dozens of COVID-19 cases associated with the Coastal Center. More than 15 employees of the facility called Live 5 Investigates at the time and stated that they were worried about catching COVID-19 at work. All of the workers who called were afraid to go on camera, but complained about a staff shortage, long hours, and low pay.

During the September DDSN commission meeting, a board member whose district includes the Coastal Center said he thinks that the agency pays living wages.

“I just think that if anybody does not think that we pay a living wage, they’re free to work somewhere else,” said Barry Malphrus, who serves as vice chairman. “But I’m more thankful to those who do it not for the money, but for the help that they do for people with disabilities.”

Malphrus stated on Friday that he stands by what he said in the September meeting, adding that “I am thankful to work with my fellow commissioners to bring much needed change to this agency.”

DDSN reported on October 9 that since the beginning of the pandemic, there had been 44 COVID-19 cases among Coastal Center employees, 13 cases among residents, and two resident deaths.


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