After seeing a peak in new coronavirus cases in July and five weeks of dropping numbers, 28 of South Carolina's 46 counties are no longer seeing a downward disease trend, according to a presentation given to state public health officials on Thursday.
Dr. Brannon Traxler, a physician consultant for the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control, told the agency's governing board the entire state can no longer be classified as being on a downward trend.
"We've recently started to see a little increase," she said. "It's too early to say whether it will be significant. We want to encourage everyone to do what they were doing. We were seeing that steady decline."
With the flu season approaching, Traxler said it's also important for everyone to get their flu shots.
Thursday also saw DHEC report the results of more than 1,000 coronavirus tests from the University of South Carolina.
The tests, which were added to the state's daily totals from Aug. 22 through Tuesday, largely came from saliva tests, according to the agency.
"Since it first began regularly testing students and staff in mid-August, USC has had technical issues electronically reporting test results to DHEC within the required 24-hour time frame," officials said.
"To improve the efficiency of reporting, DHEC provided USC with an alternate way to quickly report results and USC has assured DHEC the new method will allow the university to report positive and negative results to the agency within 24 hours going forward."
Authorities say testing at colleges and universities will likely lead to increased case numbers in some counties around the state.
New cases reported: 264
Total cases in S.C.: 124,397
New deaths reported: 24
Total deaths in S.C.: 2,823
Hospitalized patients: 852
Percent of positive tests: 6
Total tests in S.C.: 1,098,359
Richland County reported the most cases, with 39, DHEC said. Horry County had 33 and Lexington County had 28.
What about tri-county?
Charleston County had 19 new cases, Berkeley had six and Dorchester had seven, according to DHEC.
In Summerville, town officials voted Thursday night to amend an emergency mask ordinance. Face coverings will only be required in grocery stores, pharmacies and town owned buildings.
The ordinance will be in place until Sept. 30. The rule originally called for the wearing of masks in all food and retail establishments.
Of the 24 deaths reported Thursday, 22 were patients aged 65 and older and two were patients 35 to 64 years old, DHEC said.
Out of 852 coronavirus patients who were hospitalized as of Wednesday, DHEC said 219 were in intensive care and 127 were on ventilators.
What do experts say?
Authorities continue to urge the public to take precautions like wearing a mask in public, washing hands frequently and social distancing. They also urge anyone who is showing symptoms of COVID-19 or who may have been exposed to the virus to be tested.
There are 308 mobile testing events scheduled through Oct. 17 and there are 233 permanent COVID-19 testing facilities across the state, according to DHEC.
To find a testing clinic or event near you, visit scdhec.gov/covid19testing.
Seanna Adcox and Jerrel Floyd contributed to this report.