Criminal Defense Attorney in Hilton Head Island, SC

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Fighting For You

When you are charged with a crime or are involved in an accident, it can seem like the world is crashing down around you. Between the threat of incarceration and the chance of financial loss, these foreboding situations often feel overwhelming. Friends and family cut ties, your employer threatens termination, and life seems hopeless. It is imperative to have a fighter on your side during these trying times: one that will stick with you through thick and thin, without any judgments.

Welcome to the Law Office of Richard Waring: where defending your rights and freedoms is paramount in securing your future.

Richard implements a powerfully simple yet effective model for all his clients’ cases:

  • The Relentless Pursuit of a Positive Outcome
  • The Use of Creative Problem-Solving Tactics
  • Excellent Communication

When you are ready to fight back against the allegations against you, it is time to call the Law Office of Richard Waring – a criminal defense attorney on Hilton Head Island, SC, with the knowledge, experience, and drive to defend you during your most difficult time.

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What Clients Say About Us

Richard Waring

From Prosecution to Protecting Your Rights in Hilton Head Island

Richard Waring began his commitment to community service years ago. As a young man, he would spend his summers volunteering his time to help needy communities.

As an adult, his desire to help others manifested itself while I served as a prosecutor for "close to 10 years."?. During this time, he would take part in some of the most difficult trials in the Lowcountry’s history. He prosecuted thousands of individuals for crimes such as assault and battery, armed robbery, drug crimes, DUI, financial crimes, and even murder.
His time as a prosecutor was priceless, giving him valuable insight and knowledge into the inner workings of Hilton Head Island’s legal system. Today, Richard uses that experience to vigorously defend good, hardworking men and women whose freedoms are only one judgment away from disappearing.
Whether you made a mistake and need a second chance or have been wrongfully accused of a crime, you need a professional who has put in time on both sides. At the Law Office of Richard Waring, you can rest easy knowing this former prosecutor will fight tooth and nail for your freedom.

Criminal Defense

When you are charged with a crime, it can become a horrible experience. The range of emotions one goes through can be taxing: embarrassment, humiliation, regret, sadness, despair. The domino effect that often happens when charged with a crime can be awful, as well: loss of job, abandonment by your family or significant other, dirty looks from those in your community.

Fortunately, a criminal defense attorney in Hilton Head Island, SC, can help restore your reputation and repair your life. In times of legal crises, your friends and family may cut ties, but Richard Waring will be on your side from the time you call his office to the time your case is resolved.

Having prosecuted thousands of cases in South Carolina, Richard has a set of skills and experiences; assets that have guided him to win criminal cases against the government. Richard truly knows the criminal justice system’s ins and outs and is dedicated to fighting for his clients to achieve the best possible outcome on their criminal cases.

While some cases result in a positive outcome quickly, others must go to trial. Much like a combat athlete trains for months, hones his or her skills, and goes to war with an opponent, Richard Waring has prepared for and battled it out in many high-profile trials.

When you trust the Law Office of Richard Waring, you can rest assured that you are in capable hands. Each of our criminal defense clients receives the following when entrusting Richard Waring as their criminal defense lawyer in Hilton Head Island:

  • Vigorous representation
  • Quick response to emails and phone calls
  • Compassionate, understanding treatment
  • You will never be treated as unimportant or second-rate
  • Thorough investigation for your case
  • All of your constitutional rights, including the right to a fair trial, upheld
  • Notifications of important updates

The following are common cases that Richard Waring can handle for you:

  • Misdemeanor DUI/DWI
  • Felony DUI/DWI
  • Violent Crimes including: Assault and Battery of a High and Aggravated Nature, Assault and Battery, Attempted Murder, and Murder
  • Strong Armed Robbery
  • Armed Robbery
  • Drug Crimes
  • Manufacturing of Marijuana, Methamphetamine, Heroin, Crack, or Cocaine
  • Distribution of Marijuana, Methamphetamine, Heroin, Crack, or Cocaine
  • Possession with Intent to Distribute Marijuana, Methamphetamine, Heroin, Crack, or Cocaine
  • Gun crimes including: pointing or present a firearm, possession of a pistol with obliterated serial numbers, possession of a stolen pistol
  • Restoration of Your Gun Rights
  • Trespassing
  • Larceny and Burglary
  • Property Crimes
  • Domestic Violence
  • Shoplifting
  • Financial Crimes including: Forgery, financial transaction card theft, fake IDs, breach of trust, obtaining goods by false pretenses
  • Disorderly Conduct
  • Minor in Possession of Alcohol
  • Traffic Crimes including: driving without a license, speeding, reckless or careless driving
Criminal Defense
Importance Of Your Criminal Defense Attorney In Hilton Head Island, SC

Importance Of Your Criminal Defense Attorney In Hilton Head Island, SC

There are several key players in the criminal justice system, each with its own roles. The prosecutor is tasked with enforcing laws and convicting offenders. The judge serves as an unbiased decision-maker. The criminal defense attorney’s role is to protect the rights of the individual who is charged with a crime – a vitally important role in the criminal justice world.

Having a proactive, experienced criminal defense lawyer on your side almost always improves your chance of a positive outcome. While their primary role is to defend your rights and protect you from excessive sentences, they have many other duties.

When you entrust Richard Waring as your defense advocate, he will fight to protect your rights throughout the case by:

  • Arguing in court to reduce how much you must pay to post bail
  • Being present during police interrogations and interviews
  • Discovering and applying potent legal defenses
  • Advising you on your decision to plead guilty, not guilty, or to go to trial (if applicable)
  • Explaining the implications of pleading guilty
  • Gathering evidence and interviewing witnesses relating to the allegations against you
  • Meticulously examining the circumstance surrounding your search and arrest (if applicable) to uncover Fourth Amendment violations
  • Meticulously examining any drug or DUI-related chemical tests to ensure accuracy and uncover errors
  • Representing you during scheduled hearings
  • Representing you during a jury trial
  • Working with the prosecutor to discuss plea deals or the possibility of a reduced sentence
  • If convicted, representing you during the sentencing phase and arguing on your behalf for a fair sentence

Knowing Your Rights

As a defendant, you have important rights. Some of the rights that Richard Waring will fight to protect on your behalf are:

  • The right to a speedy trial
  • The right to remain silent
  • The right against unreasonable seizures and searches
  • The right against unreasonable searches and seizures
  • The right against cruel and unusual punishment
  • In most cases, the right to a jury trial
  • The right of innocence until proven guilty
  • The right to legal representation

While United States law does not mandate that a defense attorney be assigned to a defendant, the prosecutor must uphold your right to legal representation. If you cannot afford an attorney in Hilton Head Island, the government must supply you with a public defender.

While United States law does not mandate that a defense attorney be assigned to a defendant, the prosecutor must uphold your right to legal representation. If you cannot afford an attorney in Hilton Head Island, the government must supply you with a public defender.

Knowing Your Rights
Knowing Your Rights

Criminal Case Timeline In Hilton Head Island, SC

If you or a member of your family is facing criminal charges in Hilton Head Island, there is no doubt that you are anxious about the road ahead. You are not alone – most of our criminal defense clients worry about the uncertainties surrounding the legal process and what is next in their case.

At the Law Office of Richard Waring, we empathize with this stress, and as such, make every effort to address anxiety-inducing questions like:

  • How long will it take for my case to be resolved?
  • What type of sentence is common for the crime in which I am being accused?
  • Will the prosecutor offer me a favorable plea deal?

We cannot answer these questions in detail until we have time to review your case and speak with you one-on-one. Until that time, this high-level view of Hilton Head Island’s criminal case timeline can offer some insight into what lies ahead.

Arrest And Investigation

Arrest and Investigation

This is the first step in the criminal case timeline. During this time, police officer(s) will investigate the potential crime at hand and arrest whomever the officer(s) believes to be responsible. At this point, the person in question is considered a Defendant.

Initial Bond Setting

Initial Bond Setting

Shortly after the arrest (typically within the same day), defendants are granted an initial bond hearing. This short proceeding determines whether a defendant will be released from jail while charges are pending. It is wise to hire a criminal defense lawyer in Hilton Head Island, SC, before this hearing so that they may argue on your behalf.

Preliminary Hearing

Preliminary Hearing

The purpose of the preliminary hearing is to determine whether or not there is sufficient evidence (or probable cause) for the case to carry on. Defendants must request this hearing within 20 days of their initial bond setting. Hearings typically commence within three to six weeks. It is especially important that defendants retain the services of an experienced criminal defense attorney at this stage.

Initial Appearance

Initial Appearance

The main purpose of this court date is to determine if the defendant has hired an attorney or will need a public defender appointed to them. If you have an attorney before this hearing, defendants are not required to be present. The initial appearance typically happens 45 days after the arrest.

Plea Offers

Plea Offers

n some cases, the State may offer a plea offer to the defendant. If the defendant accepts this deal, a hearing will be scheduled to finalize the defendant’s acceptance. If the defendant pleads guilty, they are typically sentenced on the spot. If the defendant rejects the plea, he or she may have to go before the judge to ensure they understand the consequences of rejecting a plea offer.

Discovery

Discovery

Under Rule 5 of the South Carolina Rules of Criminal Procedure, the defendant will receive all evidence that will be used against them. As your criminal defense attorneys in Hilton Head Island, we will submit a written request to the court to obtain this information. It may take the State weeks or months to turn over their evidence, especially if that evidence is new.

Indictment

Indictment

The first barrier for the State to prosecute takes place during the preliminary hearing. The second occurs during the indictment phase. In general terms, an indictment is a document that details the criminal charges which the defendant must face. Each crime listed on the indictment is called a “count.” During this phase, the State will gather a “grand jury” comprised of public citizens. This jury is presented with evidence to help them approve or disapprove of the charges contained in the indictment. If the indictment is approved, the defendant’s case will proceed to trial. If it is rejected, charges are usually dropped.

Trial

During the trial, both the defense and prosecution will present evidence to a jury, who will hand down a final verdict. The prosecutor’s job during the trial is to convince the jury, beyond any reasonable doubt, that the defendant is guilty. The defendant is under no obligation to prove anything. As an experienced criminal defense lawyer and former prosecutor, Richard Waring will work hard to convince the jury of his client’s innocence while pointing out holes in the prosecution’s case.

Typically, a trial in Hilton Head Island includes the following phases:

  • Jury Selection
  • Pre-Trial Motions
  • Opening Statements
  • The State’s Case
  • Directed Verdict
  • The Defense’s Case
  • The State’s Rebuttal
  • Closing Arguments
  • Jury Instructions and Deliberation
  • Verdict and Sentencing

Latest News in Hilton Head Island

New COVID-19 testing site on Hilton Head Island

HILTON HEAD, S.C. (WTGS) — To get ahead of the heavy demand, cars lined up at a new COVID-19 testing site on Tuesday, due to a partnership with the town of Hilton Head Island and a in-home care medical service business in Bluffton.BrightStar Care, a medical staffing business that provides care for families in the comfort of their homes, saw a need ...

HILTON HEAD, S.C. (WTGS) — To get ahead of the heavy demand, cars lined up at a new COVID-19 testing site on Tuesday, due to a partnership with the town of Hilton Head Island and a in-home care medical service business in Bluffton.

BrightStar Care, a medical staffing business that provides care for families in the comfort of their homes, saw a need in the community. The business provided the COVID-19 test and the town of Hilton Head provided the location.

“We decided to go ahead and partner with them and open a site here. As you know the demand is out there,” said Tom Dunn, Town of Hilton Head Emergency Manager.

The drive-thru nasal swab tests located at Chaplin Community Park, 11 Castnet Drive, allow people to stay in their car throughout the whole process.

Dunn said hopefully the new testing site will reduce some of the demand many testing sites are seeing in our area.

“Improves the demand and we hope that this will alleviate some of the demand and we won’t have the situations like we had yesterday. It’ll spread out that demand and it’ll ease out the pressure of the system that we have here,” said Dunn.

Jill Larson, BrightStar Care Admin said this partnership is important because it provides more opportunities for people to get tested.

“There’s not much testing places in this area. Even a personal need. My husband and kids couldn’t find a testing location, or it took hours to get one. So, I had the opportunity to partner with the pharmacy and I reached out to the town and wanted to do something in the community, and we thought this would be a great thing to give back,” said Larson.

Although it is not required, event organizers recommend that people pre-register for the test.

The testing site is open Tuesday through Sunday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Those who wish to get tested should be in line by 2 p.m.

This is not a rapid testing location. Test results take 48 to 72 hours.

“With the current rise in COVID-19 cases and the demand for testing, we’re asking everyone seeking a test to be patient. There may be long lines and long wait times as the providers administer tests,” said Dunn.

COVID-19 testing is also available on Mondays from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., at Fire Station 4, located at 400 Squire Pope Road.

Everything we know about Beaufort Co.’s omicron wave as infections surge to new record

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Beaufort County residents now share a collective sense of whiplash after a week of record-shattering COVID-19 case trends, long testing lines and dreary news about the ultra contagious omicron variant.

To make matters worse, the demoralizing trajectory of the Lowcountry’s coronavirus outbreak was capped off Friday with another new case record: Beaufort County recorded 618 newly confirmed infections, according to the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control.

The previous single-day high was logged roughly a week ago.

The county on Friday also set a new record for its seven-day average of confirmed cases — 364 infections per day.

DHEC does not publicly break down county-level case data by vaccination status.

South Carolina, meanwhile, broke its statewide case record Friday, reporting more than 19,400 confirmed and probable infections.

As this unnerving week wraps up, here’s everything we know about the region’s wave of illness:

For additional context on the Lowcountry’s coronavirus surge, it’s helpful to monitor scientific studies and national news about omicron.

Here’s what The Island Packet and Beaufort Gazette’s COVID-19 reporter has recently been reading:

Here are the latest Beaufort County coronavirus numbers from DHEC:

New cases reported Friday: 618 confirmed, 74 probable

New cases reported Thursday: 255 confirmed, 87 probable

New cases reported Wednesday: 185 confirmed, 16 probable

New deaths reported from Wednesday to Friday: 1 confirmed, 2 probable

Seven-day average of new cases: 364 confirmed infections per day

Two-week case rate: 2,592 cases per 100,000 people

Vaccination rate: 56.4% of residents have been fully vaccinated

Bluffton ZIP code, 29910: 1,093

Hilton Head Island ZIP code, 29926: 430

Hilton Head Island ZIP code, 29928: 266

Okatie ZIP code, 29909: 362

Beaufort ZIP code, 29902: 531

West of Beaufort ZIP code, 29906: 768

St. Helena Island ZIP code, 29920: 275

Jasper County logged 57 confirmed cases and 10 probable infections Friday. No new COVID-19 deaths were announced.

Data in this story are current as of Friday afternoon.

This story was originally published January 14, 2022 3:18 PM.

Eaglets hatch on Hilton Head! Take a look at the nest cam babies

The pair of bald eagles featured on a Hilton Head Island webcam welcomed two eaglets on Sunday and Monday.The birds, given the names Harriet and Mitch, have been the stars of the Hilton Head Island eagle cam, a live camera set up next to their nest by the Hilton Head Island Land Trust, for the last two months.“We’re like new parents. The eagles and eaglets are helping us to spread our mission of conservation and showing viewers that...

The pair of bald eagles featured on a Hilton Head Island webcam welcomed two eaglets on Sunday and Monday.

The birds, given the names Harriet and Mitch, have been the stars of the Hilton Head Island eagle cam, a live camera set up next to their nest by the Hilton Head Island Land Trust, for the last two months.

“We’re like new parents. The eagles and eaglets are helping us to spread our mission of conservation and showing viewers that there’s more to Hilton Head Island than our beautiful beaches and golf courses,” said Robin Storey of the Hilton Head Island Land Trust.

Eagle cam observers have watched as Harriet and Mitch work together to feed their two eaglets and keep them warm. They will continue to care for their eaglets for the next 10 to 12 weeks until the eaglets have their flight feathers and are almost ready to leave the nest, known as the fledgling stage.

Harriet and Mitch were named last week. The Hilton Head Island Land Trust had a naming contest and received over 400 submissions from across the country. The executive committee chose to name them after historical South Carolina figures Harriet Tubman and Ormsby Mitchel.

Tubman, a former slave known as a conductor on the underground railroad, spent time in Beaufort County as a nurse and union spy. She co-led the Combahee River Raid and helped free over 750 enslaved people. She led 100 of them to the newly settled Mitchelville on Hilton Head.

Mitchelville was established in 1862 after Mitchel saw the living conditions of the formerly enslaved. Known as the first self-governed town for freedmen, it was built by and for the formerly enslaved.

At its height in 1863, Mitchelville reached 200 acres and was a fully functioning town with a mayor, councilmen, a treasurer and other officers that oversaw public disputes, according to the Mitchelville website. They also had police protection, a school and a Baptist church.

“This Island has a rich ecological habitat and an even richer history and culture, including Fort Howell, a Union fort built by the United States Colored Troops to protect Mitchelville,” Storey said.

The eagle cam started when Hilton Head resident Russell Patterson spotted an eagle’s nest. He contacted a company in California, HD on Tap, to acquire the cameras and worked with the Hilton Head Island Land Trust and Hargray Communications to set up the island’s first eagle cam in October. Since then, the cameras have accrued more than 140,000 views from all over the world.

On Nov. 19, about a month after the camera was set up, Harriet was spotted with her first egg. To protect the eagles, the location of the nest has remained private.

Because Harriet is larger than Mitch, she was the main caretaker of the eggs. Mitch occasionally helped. They worked together to keep the eggs warm and fight off intruders like crows and ravens.

Watch the eagles by going to www.hhilandtrust.org and clicking on the eagle cam button.

Will Beaufort Co. municipalities require masks due to omicron surge? What we know

The political appetite for public mask mandates seems to be long gone in Beaufort County, even though COVID-19 cases are surging to new heights.Communitywide face-covering rules have become increasingly contentious during the nation’s pandemic response, and even with the omicron variant now sweeping across the Lowcountry, it appears unlikely that local governments will enact new mask mandates for indoor settings such as restaurants and grocery stores.Beaufort County, as of Tuesday, was averaging ...

The political appetite for public mask mandates seems to be long gone in Beaufort County, even though COVID-19 cases are surging to new heights.

Communitywide face-covering rules have become increasingly contentious during the nation’s pandemic response, and even with the omicron variant now sweeping across the Lowcountry, it appears unlikely that local governments will enact new mask mandates for indoor settings such as restaurants and grocery stores.

Beaufort County, as of Tuesday, was averaging 285 confirmed COVID-19 cases per day, which is a new record. Omicron, a super contagious variant that was discovered in southern Africa late last year, is sparking the latest wave of infections. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is recommending that both fully vaccinated and unvaccinated county residents wear masks in public indoor spaces, citing the high level of COVID-19 spread. (The CDC has collected reams of data on the benefits of mask use during the pandemic.)

But there are still no plans to roll out new face-covering rules in Beaufort County, according to interviews with elected officials.

Why?

Here’s what we know.

County Council Chair Joe Passiment on Tuesday said there currently are no plans to enact a new mask mandate in unincorporated Beaufort County.

“We’re very split on the County Council regarding masks,” Passiment said. “To do an emergency ordinance, we need at least two-thirds majority, or the approval of at least eight members.”

He added that a countywide mandate is difficult to enforce.

The county has reported more than 3,000 new COVID-19 cases since Jan. 1, according to the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control.

Mayor John McCann said the town has no plans to create a new mask mandate.

“At this point, I believe it’s a personal responsibility” to wear a face covering, McCann said in a Monday interview.

McCann’s comments echoed what he had previously told The Island Packet and Beaufort Gazette last summer, when he enacted a state of emergency due to the delta variant surge.

The state of emergency is still in effect, according to Town Clerk Krista Wiedmeyer. It allows the Town Council to meet virtually and allows Town Manager Marc Orlando to require that residents wear masks in Town Hall, among other town-owned buildings.

Masks were an emotional flashpoint on Hilton Head in 2021.

Anti-mask activists blasted the Town Council with a wave of vitriol and COVID-19 misinformation at an August meeting, forcing McCann to end it early. Elected officials left the chambers flanked by deputies from the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office.

The newspapers in fall 2020 also reported on a growing — but still small — movement of local mask mandate opponents who had commandeered public comment and spammed the livestreams of local government meetings.

“I’ve had more contacts through email on this issue than any issue before,” Hilton Head Ward 5 representative Tom Lennox said at the time.

The Monmouth University Polling Institute in early December found that 55% of Americans supported “instituting or reinstituting” mask and social distancing guidelines in their states. That was down from 63% in September.

Since Jan. 1, the island’s 29926 ZIP code has recorded 282 new coronavirus cases, DHEC data show. There have been 186 infections, meanwhile, reported in the south-end 29928 ZIP code.

Bluffton has no plans to enact any new mask mandates, spokeswoman Debbie Szapanka said Tuesday.

But, Szapanka said, the town has a policy that requires residents to wear face coverings in Town Council chambers during public meetings. The meetings also must be held at no more than 50% capacity, she said.

Town Manager Stephen Steese said he made the decision to require masks at town meetings as COVID-19 cases began to spike at the beginning of this month.

Mayor Lisa Sulka did not immediately respond to a phone message Tuesday.

Bluffton’s ZIP code of 29910 has logged 727 infections since Jan. 1. That’s the highest case count in Beaufort County so far this year.

Beaufort Mayor Stephen Murray on Monday said there are no plans to enact new mask requirements in the city.

While omicron is spreading, the good news, Murray said, is “it doesn’t seem like it’s turning into inpatient hospitalizations.”

Even though the county recently logged a record-breaking number of new COVID-19 cases, with 543 infections confirmed on Saturday, inpatient counts at local hospitals have not spiked to the levels last seen during the 2021 delta variant surge.

Beaufort Memorial Hospital, as of Monday, was treating 12 coronavirus inpatients, with one of those people in the intensive care unit, according to spokeswoman Dee Robinson. (At one point in mid-September, during the delta surge, the hospital had 60 coronavirus inpatients.)

In interviews last week, local health care leaders said that anecdotally, omicron seems to produce milder disease than delta.

“From an outpatient perspective, this is the worst it’s been,” said hospital CEO Russell Baxley in a recent interview. “From an inpatient perspective, right now we’re doing OK.”

Murray also noted that the omicron peak in South Africa has passed without an overwhelming spike in hospital admissions.

(Some health experts, though, fear that omicron will still overwhelm U.S. hospitals with a deluge of inpatients, simply because of the sheer number of cases that it generates. The nation on Tuesday set a new record high for the number of COVID-19 inpatients in the country, with 145,982 such cases. Some medical centers, including in Delaware, have activated crisis standards of care, which means that health care systems can no longer provide normal, standard levels of care to patients due to a catastrophic public health event.)

Murray added that Beaufort continues to encourage residents to get vaccinated.

There have been 368 new COVID-19 cases reported in Beaufort’s 29902 ZIP code since Jan. 1, according to DHEC.

Port Royal Mayor Joe DeVito in a Monday interview said the town currently does not plan to enact a new mask mandate.

DeVito said residents are now better educated about masks than they were in 2020, when the town first passed a mask mandate, because there is more information available about face coverings.

“People understand the use of masks,” DeVito said.

The town, though, will revisit the mandate issue if there is a need, he added.

“We’re obviously watching,” he said.

Port Royal’s 29935 ZIP code has recorded 85 infections since Jan. 1, DHEC data show.

Yemassee Mayor Colin Moore did not immediately respond to a phone message Tuesday. There was no agenda item about mask mandates on the Town Council’s Tuesday meeting agenda.

The agenda says that because of the “exponential amount of COVID-19 cases and community transmission,” the council chambers will be restricted to 10 people.

The Beaufort County side of Yemassee’s 29945 ZIP code has seen 27 new coronavirus cases since Jan. 1, according to DHEC.

Republican Gov. Henry McMaster issued an executive order in May 2021 that blocked local governments from using his COVID-19 state of emergency to support public mask mandates.

But McMaster’s executive order was issued under his state of emergency, which expired in June to little fanfare.

That means the executive order is no longer in effect.

McMaster, an outspoken critic of mask mandates, recently told reporters “there’s no need” to declare a new COVID-19 state of emergency.

Brian Symmes, a spokesman for McMaster, did not respond to a phone message Monday.

“Under home rule, municipal councils have the authority to enact mask mandates, if they choose to do that. That authority is still in place,” said Scott Slatton, director of advocacy and communications for the Municipal Association of South Carolina, in a Monday interview.

Data in this story are current as of Tuesday afternoon.

How many COVID cases, quarantines did Beaufort Co. schools log in first week back?

Amid a growing omicron surge, Beaufort County School District saw a jump in COVID cases and quarantines as students and staff returned from winter break, logging more than 200 infections and 500 quarantines across the district between Jan. 3-7.Three schools — Bluffton High School, May River High School and Whale Branch Early College High School — logged more than 20 student COVID cases last week.Beaufort High, H.E. McCracken Middle, M.C. Riley Elementary and Bluffton High each reported more than 35 students quaranti...

Amid a growing omicron surge, Beaufort County School District saw a jump in COVID cases and quarantines as students and staff returned from winter break, logging more than 200 infections and 500 quarantines across the district between Jan. 3-7.

Three schools — Bluffton High School, May River High School and Whale Branch Early College High School — logged more than 20 student COVID cases last week.

Beaufort High, H.E. McCracken Middle, M.C. Riley Elementary and Bluffton High each reported more than 35 students quarantining last week.

That’s a sharp jump from pre-break numbers, when Superintendent Frank Rodriguez reported 16 infections and 59 quarantines for the whole district between Dec. 5-11.

This dramatic increase is in line with the rest of the county, which broke its single-day COVID-19 case record over the weekend even as residents reported delays and difficulties in getting tested for COVID.

However, it seems like the spread in schools might be less severe than the county at large — current quarantine levels are nowhere near what they were in September, when the district reported nearly 3,000 people quarantining in one week.

The new school data comes from a Wednesday report by South Carolina’s Department of Health and Environmental Control. DHEC doesn’t report the number of cases or quarantines at each school if it’s between one and four, instead leaving it as an asterisk in the report. Because of that, it’s difficult to calculate the total number of cases and quarantines in the district.

In total, from Jan. 3-7 the district logged:

Since the beginning of the school year, the district has reported nearly 2,000 COVID infections and more than 8,000 quarantines.

This semester, Beaufort County School District is also operating under new requirements from DHEC, namely shortened quarantine periods and more stringent mask requirements.

If students or staff test positive for COVID-19, they’ll be required to quarantine for only five days instead of 10. After the five-day quarantine, they can return to school as long as they wear a mask indoors for the next five days and “provide a parent note confirming that symptoms have improved and there has been no fever in the past 24 hours without using fever-reducing medication,” per a district email.

If students or staff refuse to wear a mask indoors during days six through 10, they cannot return to campus. Students who are quarantining will get live online instruction from teachers who are also teaching in-person classes.

Quarantine policies for close contacts to someone with COVID depend on vaccination status. People who aren’t showing symptoms and have been fully vaccinated and/or who have tested positive for COVID in the last 90 days and are no longer contagious do not have to quarantine. But they must wear a mask for 10 days after exposure unless they’re eating or drinking while social distancing. DHEC is recommending getting a COVID test on day five after an exposure.

Unvaccinated individuals have to quarantine for five days but can return to school if they don’t show symptoms and get a negative antigen or PCR test on or after the fourth day. They have to wear masks for days six through 10 after exposure.

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