Following a week of increasing COVID-19 cases and an uptick of hospitalizations from the virus, South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster said he was “disappointed” in South Carolinians for not following health guidelines to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
Dr. Linda Bell of the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Services (SCDHEC) said she was troubled by the lack of social distancing and safety precautions as COVID-19 cases keep climbing.
“I’m more concerned about COVID-19 in South Carolina than I ever have been before,” Bell said. “It doesn’t take hard data to tell that most people in South Carolina aren’t social distancing, aren’t avoiding group gatherings, and aren’t wearing masks.”
Yet, while McMaster expressed great concern for the virus, he said he had no intention of closing any more businessses.
“We need to practice social distancing — in other words, be smart,” he said. “There’s a lot of stupid floating around.”
After closing thousands of businesses for more than a month, McMaster began re-opening the state in early May. Restaurants, retail stores, and tourist attractions have all been allowed to open.
Since then, the state has seen a fairly steady incline in cases, particularly after Memorial Day.
SCDHEC announced 528 cases Wednesday — following a record-breaking week averaging around 431 new cases per day.
For the past six days, South Carolina officials have reported more than 350 daily COVID-19 cases. Keep in mind, before May 30, South Carolina hadn’t reported more than 300 new daily cases ever.
In April, South Carolina averaged 170 COVID-19 cases per day. In May, that number jumped to 190 cases per day. So far in June, that number surged to an average of 383 new coronavirus cases per day.
The recent surge is not necessarily due to the state’s expanded testing. The percentage of positive cases per tests has been ticking upward. Yesterday, the percent positive number was higher than it’s ever been at 14.7 percent.
For most of May, the number of daily percent positive cases was less than 5 percent.
Hospitalizations are increasing upward as well — another indicator that the pandemic is still threatening lives in the Palmetto State, despite relaxed orders.
According to SCDHEC, 513 people were hospitalized due to COVID-19 in South Carolina on Monday. Since SCDHEC began tracking data of all SC hospitalizations due to COVID-19 correctly on May 5, the state has averaged 432 hospitalizations in May.
“As of this morning, 2,809 inpatient hospital beds are available and 7,608 are in use, which is a 73.03% statewide hospital bed utilization rate,” SCDHEC said Wednesday.
Greenville County — the largest county in South Carolina with a population of 451,225 — recently became the state’s epicenter for coronavirus with 2,371 cases. Last Monday, Greenville had 1,619 total reported cases.
Bell said health officials have identified Greenville as a new hotspot.
Seven people died from COVID-19 Wednesday.
“Five of the deaths occurred in elderly individuals from Chesterfield (1), Florence (1), Greenville (2), and Spartanburg (1) counties, and 2 middle-aged individuals from Greenville (1) and Newberry (1) counties,” SCDHEC officials said Wednesday.
On Wednesday, McMaster also announced his proposal for how the state should spend the $1.9 billion from the federal Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Security (CARES) act.
The proposal includes, but is not limited to:
- $215,000,000 to extend the school year five days and extra hours at the beginning of the year to allow students to catch up with the work from the previous school year.
- $43,000,000 for SCDHEC to expand COVID testing
- $500,000,000 to the unemployment insurance trust fund.
This proposal will be sent to the General Assembly for review.
“I believe this may be the most important step we can take toward restoring our state’s economic engines to full speed and it will instill a renewed sense of confidence and stability with our business owners, investors and entrepreneurs,” McMaster said in a news release.
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