The state Department of Health and Environmental Control announced Saturday the number of COVID-19 patients in South Carolina increased to 173 cases in 30 counties, up from 125 cases in 25 counties on Friday.
There is one new case of the disease, which is caused by the coronavirus, in Horry County, meaning the county now has nine COVID-19 cases confirmed by DHEC. So far, officials have reported three deaths in South Carolina connected to COVID-19.
“We can all take steps every day to help limit the spread of this virus,” said Dr. Michael Kacka, a DHEC physician and medical consultant, in a statement. “As the number of positive cases throughout the state is expected to increase, we’re continuing to focus our efforts on preventing spread of the disease with special attention to those who are most high-risk for contracting the virus.”
S.C. Gov. Henry McMaster has recently prohibited dine-in service at bars and restaurants in the state through the end of the month, though he is allowing eateries to sell sealed containers of beer and wine to customers, who can pick up the beverages through curbside or "to-go" orders.
Additionally, the state's new income tax deadline is July 15.
The governor is also asking construction workers to donate any personal protective equipment they can spare such as respirator masks to healthcare personnel and state agencies in need.
McMaster has directed the S.C. Law Enforcement Division and other police agencies in the state to disperse crowds gathered on South Carolina beaches. People can still visit the beach, but are told to practice social distancing. Unless authorized or in their homes, individuals are instructed not to congregate in groups of three or more and follow an officer's order if asked to disperse. An offender could be charged with a misdemeanor.
The coronavirus pandemic has caused public facilities to close, schools and universities to move online, events to be cancelled and residents to stockpile supplies in preparation for long stretches indoors, following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommendation to practice social distancing, avoid public gatherings gatherings of more than 10 people and restrict travel.
Bartenders, servers and other hourly workers have been hit hard as filings for unemployment have skyrocketed, and McMaster said during a press conference earlier this week that he would expedite the approval process for unemployment benefits.
Horry County Schools has started a program to deliver food to kids who used to get lunch at the cafeteria before the pandemic forced the district to send students home.
Hospitals have imposed stringent visitor restrictions, and McMaster said DHEC would temporarily suspend certificate of need requirements to allow hospitals to add more hospital beds without going through a long, arduous approval process.
The governor on Friday said non-essential state employees must work from home, and department heads are in charge of determining which employees must come into the office.
Most local governments have declared localized states of emergencies to make them eligible for federal dollars in the aftermath of the virus’ spread.
COVID-19 was first identified in Wuhan, China, in December, but China didn’t confirm its existence until January. The virus reached America in late January. The disease mainly targets the respiratory system, and while the virus can still hospitalize young people, older people with weaker immune systems are more susceptible and have a higher mortality rate.
CDC officials have said the virus has an average incubation period of five days. Some cases can last for several weeks. That means younger healthy people without severe symptoms can still transfer the virus to more susceptible populations who might require a hospital stay to survive.
DHEC encourages people to wash their hands frequently with soap and water, avoid touching their face and regularly clean high-use personal items. Also, individuals are asked to avoid contact with people who are sick, not share their personal items and clean frequently-touched surfaces. Those who are ill are asked to stay home from work, school and public events.
Reporter Christian Boschult contributed to this story.