The S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control on Friday announced 160 new cases of COVID-19 in South Carolina, including eight in Horry County, and 12 more deaths related to the virus.
One of the deaths was an elderly person from Horry County.
The announcement brings the number of people in South Carolina with a lab-confirmed case of COVID-19 up to 6,258, with 256 deaths.
Horry County is home to a cumulative total of 223 cases of lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19, including 16 deaths. However, due to undiagnosed cases, the state agency believes there could actually be more than 1,500 cases in Horry County, and close to 45,000 cases statewide.
DHEC is projecting the state to have a cumulative total of more than 9,000 lab-confirmed cases by May 16.
More than 59,000 people have been tested for COVID-19 and as of Friday morning, the state's hospital bed capacity was at 59 percent, with 4,653 hospital beds available and 6,743 in use. Of the beds in use, DHEC says 300 are occupied by patients who have either tested positive or are under investigation for COVID-19.
DHEC said Friday that 78 percent of patients had recovered.
State Epidemiologist Dr. Linda Bell said data showed that the rate of new cases was starting to slow down.
"The steps we are taking collectively have been working. Our data indicate that South Carolina’s COVID-19 curve is beginning to level," Bell said during a Friday press conference. But, she added, "We do know many who are infected are not being tested."
Bell said that DHEC was going to try and ramp up the availability of testing in underserved areas, and begin contact tracing to slow down the spread. Contact tracing involves tracking down and interviewing anyone who interacted with a person confirmed to have COVID-19.
"This extensive contact tracing process help cut short the transmission of disease in our communities," Bell said. "We have surged our number of contact tracers from approximately 20 to over 200."
While the curve of new cases is starting to flatten, S.C. Gov. Henry McMaster has relaxed some of his earlier restrictions, allowing some retailers to reopen with capacity restrictions and giving cities the power to make their own decisions on whether to reopen public beach accesses.
The governor on Friday said he was lifting his stay-at-home order, effective Monday, and would let restaurants open up outdoor dining. He also said he was lifting his restrictions on short-term rentals.
State officials are still encouraging residents to stay home and minimize contact with people outside their households to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus. DHEC also recommends practicing social distancing, wearing a mask while out in public, avoiding touching frequently-touched items, routinely washing one's hands and monitoring for symptoms.