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What You Missed: SC public health director leaving amid COVID pandemic

Dr. Joan Duwve (copy) (copy)

Dr. Joan Duwve joined the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control on Friday, April 17, 2020, as its new public health director. She is stepping down from the position effective immediately.

Even though her possible move to take a job in Ohio didn’t happen, South Carolina’s public health director is still exiting her role with the state Department of Health and Environmental Control. As reported by The Post and Courier’s Jessica Holdman, state Public Health Director Dr. Joan Duwve is set to leave DHEC after just five months. Her exit comes as South Carolina continues to grapple with the novel coronavirus pandemic. Dr. Brannon Traxler, who is chief medical officer for the state’s COVID-19 response, will be the interim public health director. DHEC announced Duwve’s exit on Sept. 11. That followed a day of uncertainty about her future. On the afternoon of Sept. 10, Ohio’s governor announced Duwve would take a top public health job in hat state. Six hours later, Gov. Mike DeWine said Duwve had withdrawn her name from consideration, citing unspecified personal reasons. Duwve’s decision not to accept the Ohio position was largely based on harassment experienced by the state’s former health director Amy Acton, The State newspaper reported. Despite not taking the Ohio job, Duwve is still moving on from DHEC. “Joan is a brilliant physician who is passionate about public health and we greatly appreciate the time she spent with DHEC as our director of public health. We wish her the best of luck in her future endeavors,” DHEC Acting Director Marshall Taylor said in a statement.

COMET driver who last operated USC shuttle bus diagnosed with COVID-19

A driver with the COMET bus system who recently drove a shuttle bus for University of South Carolina students, as well as buses on a number of other non-USC routes, has tested positive for the novel coronavirus and has been quarantined. The bus system — which services Richland and parts of Lexington and Newberry counties, and has a contract to operate USC’s shuttle buses — disclosed the driver’s diagnosis in a Sept. 11 news release. The driver in question last worked on Sept. 9, and on that day drove what the COMET described in the release as the “1302 Tripper USC.” A spokeswoman with the bus system says tripper buses “follow one of the main buses to prevent overcrowding.” COMET CEO John Andoh added that the bus driver operated on COMET routes 77 and 6 on September 7, and drove the Soda Cap route 1 on Sept. 8. The bus driver reportedly tested positive on Sept. 11. The driver will self-quarantine for 14 days, then be retested. “The safety of our bus operators, our riders and the public is top of mind, especially during this pandemic,” COMET CEO John Andoh said in the news release. “We are constantly exploring newer and better ways to ensure that we protect staff and passengers so that they can travel as safely as possible.” The bus system has been disinfecting its vehicles daily, and riders and drivers are required to wear masks. The COMET also does daily temperature checks on its drivers and staff.

Richland County could get $730K grant for election equipment

From the “Every little bit helps” file: Richland County, which has long had issues with calamitous elections, could get $730,000 in grant funding for the county office of elections and voter registration. The grant funds would come from the Center for Tech and Civic Life, an elections-focused nonprofit that has received financial support from Google, Facebook, the Knight Foundation and other organizations. The nonprofit is doling out more than $250 million to local governments for elections this year. According to county paperwork, the grant to the Richland elections office would include $450,000 for absentee ballot processing equipment, including a ballot counting machine and a large inbound mail sorting machine; $100,000 for advertising to promote absentee voting; $150,000 for 30 additional voting machines; and $25,000 for miscellaneous elections supplies. As Free Times was going to press, Richland County Council was set to vote on whether or not to accept the cash. County officials have said there could be as many as 60,000 mail-in absentee ballots in Richland this year, as some citizens are looking to avoid crowded election day lines amid COVID-19. The possibility of the grant funding comes as Richland County looks to rebound from a calamitous June 9 primary. That day was marred by an extreme shortage of poll workers because of COVID-19 fears, numerous combined precincts, hours-long waits at polling places (the final votes were cast in the wee hours of June 10), and reports of people receiving incorrect ballots.

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