25 COVID-19 cases reported at Coastal Center; four dorms quarantined

Updated: Oct. 21, 2020 at 7:07 PM EDT
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SUMMERVILLE, S.C. (WCSC) - A Dorchester County facility that has more than 140 residents and employs nearly 350 people is once again in the midst of an active COVID-19 outbreak.

As Live 5 Investigates first reported on Friday, coronavirus concerns are still mounting at the Coastal Regional Center, which is operated by the South Carolina Department of Disabilities and Special Needs.

Agency administrators did not respond to questions about the outbreak fast week, but DDSN spokesperson Kim McLeod told Live 5 Investigates on Tuesday that 15 Coastal Center residents and 10 employees have tested positive for COVID-19 in the last month.

These coronavirus cases are in addition to the dozens of cases associated with the center that Live 5 Investigates has previously reported on.

The agency says that they are working with DHEC to provide testing on the premises and that 60 residents and 60 employees have been tested over the past month.

Additionally, McLeod confirmed that since October 12, four Coastal Center dorms have been quarantined. She also stated that programming on campus has been “temporarily suspended out of an abundance of caution ... to keep the virus contained,” adding that “allowing consumers from different dorms to comingle could result in many more cases.”

Dave Zoellner, a lawyer for a nonprofit organization called Protection and Advocacy for People with Disabilities, Inc., said that the campus along Miles Jamison Road in Summerville is the only one of its kind in the Lowcountry.

“The Coastal Center is a place where individuals with severe intellectual or related disabilities live,” said Zoellner, adding that many of these residents would not be able to safely live at home with their families.

More than a dozen Coastal Center workers have reached out to Live 5 Investigates, complaining about matters such as low pay and a staff shortage on campus.

A drive-thru hiring event was held on the grounds of the facility on Monday, but McLeod claimed that the “Coastal Center has adequate staffing and continues to meet the needs of individuals in their care,” noting that “direct support professionals are in high demand throughout the nation. The Coastal Center, like many long term care facilities, is engaged in continuous recruitment for those positions.”

Live 5 Investigates asked Governor Henry McMaster on Wednesday about the Coastal Center COVID-19 outbreak.

“I am aware of it,” said McMaster. “I do not have the details. I look forward to receiving those soon.”

Meanwhile, as the pandemic continues, some are worried about the toll that it is taking on the people who live at the Coastal Center.

“The idea of being limited in where they can go or any limitations on programming, anything that makes a change in their life makes it more difficult for them,” said Zoellner.

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