Surge in COVID-19 cases forces Grand Strand municipalities to make changes to services

Published: Jan. 11, 2022 at 3:54 PM EST
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HORRY COUNTY, S.C. (WMBF) – The recent uptick in COVID-19 cases across the Grand Strand has forced county and city offices to make changes to their services.

On Tuesday, the city of Myrtle Beach announced that it will only be picking up household garbage from residential customers for the rest of the week. The Solid Waste Division has had to temporarily suspend the collection of recyclables and yard waste and bulky junk pickup will also be limited this week.

The city said the temporary restriction is because of staffing shortages caused by COVID-19 exposure.

“Pending test results, we hope to restore full service as soon as possible,” according to the city of Myrtle Beach.

Meanwhile, the city of North Myrtle Beach announced that those who attend meetings, workshops and other public events in the city council chambers will be required to wear a face mask.

The city said it will provide seating with sound in the City Hall atrium for those who can’t meet this requirement.

This all comes one day after Horry County announced limit capacity inside government buildings due to the uptick in COVID-19.

“We have at least eight people who are out on protocols right now for being exposed,” said Mark Kruea, the spokesperson for Myrtle Beach. “Hopefully, those test results will come back quickly, and that’s just in the solid waste division, so we’re very short-staffed there.”

Solid waste doesn’t make for the best work-from-home job ultimately, someone has to be available to make collections. With at least eight people out of commission in coronavirus protocols, the department is re-working schedules to make sure trash pick-ups happen on time.

Doing that means cutting back on some other services.

“We’ve cobbled together some staff members who will run the solid waste route for garbage only, but we really don’t have enough people to run the extra route for recycling or, for the most part, bulky junk and yard waste,” Kruea said.

Recycling collection will stop for the week, and yard waste and bulk pick-up will be very limited until the city can get some solid waste workers back.

Several Horry County departments are in the same boat. The county announced it has 63 positive staff members and another 53 in quarantine.

The South Strand office for the Auditor is closed and the Treasurer’s Office at the location is drive-thru only until further notice due to the surge in COVID-19 cases.

As a result, the county is limiting occupancy inside all county buildings, and the public safety center, police and fire precincts will take visitors by appointment.

People are encouraged to handle county business online when it is possible.

In North Myrtle Beach, city leaders have decided to require masks inside the city council chambers as the staff case count climbs.

North Myrtle Beach Mayor Marilyn Hatley says they still have enough employees to keep all services up and running and the mask requirement inside the chambers is an attempt to keep it that way.

“We want to keep them healthy,” said Hatley. “They are doing a wonderful job of taking on the responsibility of those who are out sick.”

Kruea is optimistic Myrtle Beach’s solid waste will be back to normal operations next week. He compared the situation to a football team with injuries to its key players, playing a game that can’t be postponed.

“You can cancel the football game, but you really can’t cancel picking up garbage, so we need to make that happen to the best of our ability,” Kruea said,

If you can’t stand the thought of your Christmas tree sitting at the end of your driveway, rotting away for the foreseeable future, you’re welcome to recycle it yourself, bring it to the transfer station on Mr. Joe White Avenue.

The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control announced there were nearly 6,500 new confirmed COVID-19 cases across the state, with 246 of those being in Horry County.

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