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About That TB Outbreak



People have been hounding us for weeks to write more extensively on a recent outbreak of tuberculosis (TB) in Greenwood, S.C.

For those of you keeping score at home, seventy-four people have tested positive for the disease – an airborne strain of mycobacteria which attacks the lungs. Of those, twelve have shown abnormal chest X-ray readings – signifying an active infection. All seventy-four cases are linked to the Ninety Six Primary School, which hired a janitor who was infected with the disease.

This “index patient” – who was uncooperative with regional health inspectors – was removed from the school on March 8 via a public health order. However it took more than two months for the extent of the infection to become public knowledge. This delay has prompted a flood of criticism – most of it directed at S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control (SCDHEC) director Catherine Templeton.

That strikes us as curious considering Templeton was the one who blew up this story in the first place – and who, to use her term, “called in the cavalry” as soon as she was made aware of the outbreak.

Which leads us to the fundamental question: Why did it take so long for Templeton to find out?

Several Democratic State Senators – Joel Lourie (D-Richland), Brad Hutto (D-Orangeburg) and Vincent Sheheen (D-Camden) – are holding hearings into the outbreak this week. Meanwhile The (Columbia, S.C.) State newspaper has devoted dozens of barrels of ink to the story. Of course these “investigations” are driven more by political gamesmanship and newspaper subscriptions than a desire to uncover the truth.

In response to several requests from our readers, we’ve begun to collect information on what actually happened at the Ninety Six Primary School. We’ve conducted interviews with several of Templeton’s most aggressive detractors – and we’ve offered Templeton’s agency an opportunity to respond to those critics.

We’ve also been talking with people on the ground in Greenwood – most of whom want to know what the school district was doing to protect its children during the critical early stages of the outbreak.

“It is my understanding Mr. Clarence Winans, Director of Student Services, is over the nurses employed at the schools,” Ninety-Six resident Amy Hilley wrote in an email to state Senators last week. “I would think you would want to interview him at your hearing to see what his involvement was during this whole mess. Was he even included in any of the decisions made on behalf of the students?  I am sure since he is over the nurses he must be aware of the policies and procedures which were in place at the time all of this happened. I am sure he would also be able to confirm what kind of training has taken place regarding infectious disease control. If Mr. Winans was not included in any of these discussions, why not?”

Those are excellent questions.

In fact we wouldn’t be surprised to learn that Lourie, Hutto and Sheheen – three of the most aggressive defenders of South Carolina’s failed government-run school system  – were looking to shield its incompetent employees from bearing the brunt of the blame in this case. After all, these are the same people who love to criticize the lack of “accountability” in private and parochial schools.

Anyway, in addition to our interviews we’ve filed several information requests with various state agencies seeking documents related to the outbreak.

Stay tuned for what we uncover …

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