South Carolina health officials announced another sizable uptick in new coronavirus cases on Saturday, pushing the statewide total to just under 2,000 in roughly a month’s time. The agency also began providing more complete data on testing being conducted by private labs.
According to the latest numbers from the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control (SCDHEC), there were 217 new cases reported on Saturday – pushing the statewide total to 1,917 since data first began being released early last month.
The agency also announced six new deaths as a result of exposure to the virus – bringing the statewide death toll to forty (40). According to SCDHEC, all six individuals who died since the last update was provided were “elderly and also had underlying health conditions.”
Two of those succumbing to the virus were residents of Lexington county, while the others were residents of Beaufort, Georgetown, Richland and York counties, respectively.
As of April 3, 2020, SCDHEC announced that its laboratory had conducted 6,211 negative tests – along with 10,186 negative tests from private laboratories. That brings the statewide total for negative tests to 16,397 out of 18,314 total tests conducted (i.e. 89.5 percent of all tests have come back negative).
Once again, though, the data released by SCDHEC does not represent a complete picture of the spread of the virus in South Carolina due to insufficient testing and the increasing likelihood that many residents had the virus long before the government began tracking cases in early March.
Still, South Carolina has dramatically improved its per capita testing percentage over the last week – after we exclusively reported on its anemic testing levels.
The latest case data comes as South Carolina governor Henry McMaster is under growing pressure to issue a so-called “stay-at-home” order on top of his previous edicts related to the closure of non-essential businesses.
McMaster stumbled through a disastrous press conference on Friday in which he declined to offer a clear rationale for his decision not to issue such an order – versions of which have been adopted in 42 other states.
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“We have orders some other states don’t have,” McMaster (above) said, referring to South Carolina as “unique.”
On Saturday morning, however, the man widely believed to be in charge of the executive branch of government in the Palmetto State – McMaster chief of staff Trey Walker – gave an interview to reporter Andy Shain of The (Charleston, S.C.) Post and Courier in which he suggested McMaster lacked the authority to issue such an order.
“He has done the things he has legal authority to do,” Walker told Shain. “Yes, he could go out and say, ‘I order you by criminal penalty to stay home.’ But the problem is he does not believe that any governor or any public official has the constitutional authority to force someone to stay inside their home against their will.”
Walker also rebuked critics of the governor who have littered the internet and social media with pictures of noncompliance.
“Posting pics complaining of public noncompliance means you’re part of the problem too,” he tweeted late Saturday. “Go home.”
While the political battle rages, case numbers continue to climb.
As you can see from the latest “heat map” provided by SCDHEC, Charleston county continues to have the highest number of confirmed cases in the state with 274. Richland county is next with 242 confirmed cases, followed by Greenville county (183 cases), Beaufort county (148 cases) and Kershaw county (141 cases).
Kershaw was the original epicenter of the outbreak in the Palmetto State.
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As of Saturday afternoon, at least 300,617 Americans had tested positive for the virus, according to a database maintained by The New York Times. Of those, an estimated 8,100 had died as result of being exposed to it – including 3,565 coronavirus-related fatalities in New York.
Worldwide, as of Saturday afternoon there were more than 1.1 million confirmed cases and more than 60,000 deaths, according to the latest statistics from Johns Hopkins. The latest data from the World Health Organization (WHO) showed 1,056,249 confirmed cases and just over 57,000 deaths.
As the pandemic rages, there is growing concern that the massive, economically debilitating shutdown of the American economy that has accompanied the spread of the virus will only delay its inevitable spread – and that a “second wave” of infections is likely to hit the nation in the fall.
“We need federal officials to shoot straight with people,” one former South Carolina health official told us. “We need to be testing widely. (This is) a huge failure of the public health system (and federal response).”
As for the first wave of the virus, according to the latest projections from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) in Seattle, Washington the high end of the projected death toll for the country still stands at just over 177,000 – with an expected peak of 2,644 deaths on April 16.
As for South Carolina, the latest IHME projections continued to call for 1,095 total deaths – with an expected peak of 31 deaths per day between April 28-30.
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