South Carolina health officials announced 187 new coronavirus cases and three deaths Tuesday afternoon, bringing the state to a total of 2,417 cases, 51 of them fatal.
The state is heading toward what the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control expects to be a late April peak in deaths and hospitalizations from COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, according to numbers added to the agency's website.
The projections, which assume residents will continue social distancing through May, expect the rate of fatalities to peak with 14 deaths on April 29. By early August, 442 South Carolinians could die after contracting the virus.
DHEC expects hospitals to be at the peak of resource usage on April 24, with health professionals needing almost 700 beds and 119 invasive ventilators. As of Tuesday morning, the state had 5,594 hospital beds available.
The overall growth in the number of cases is accelerating, said Dr. Linda Bell, the state’s top epidemiologist. An average of 187 new cases were reported each day last week, a sharp increase from the average 90 new cases per day the week before.
DHEC estimated Monday that South Carolina could already have as many as 15,300 total cases, which includes people with mild or asymptomatic cases of COVID-19, or who have not otherwise been confirmed through testing. The estimate is based on about nine people on average being infected for each patient already diagnosed.
The department and private labs have tested samples from 23,680 South Carolinians. The three new deaths include two patients from Lexington County and one from Greenville County. Each of the victims was elderly and had underlying health problems, according to DHEC.
Gov. Henry McMaster issued a “work or home” order on Monday. It went into effect Tuesday evening. The executive order was put in place as mandatory rules, he said, since his office’s previous recommendations and suggestions had not been heeded by residents.
For Easter services, he recommended worshippers connect online. He also issued an executive order to limit the number of shoppers in stores.
Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg said the country has become a hot spot, but he hopes the state and city do not follow suit. Of the 187 new cases, five are from Charleston County.
"That is evidence that if we are mindful, we can flatten the curve," Tecklenburg said at a news conference Tuesday.
Police Chief Luther Reynolds said a second Charleston officer tested positive for the coronavirus on Tuesday, bringing the number of city employees that have tested positive to five.
Reynolds said the two police officers that tested positive do not work the same shift and did not come into contact with each other. He said he is unsure if the officers contracted the virus at work.
One city employee has returned to work following the illness, Tecklenburg said, and all employees who have contracted the virus have shown mild symptoms and did not need to be hospitalized. He said he expects those employees to return to work after a 14-day waiting period.
Reynolds said officers did not issue trespassing summons on Monday or Tuesday. Livability Director Daniel Riccio said no non-essential businesses were cited in that time for remaining open.
The Army announced on Tuesday that it will stop shipping new recruits to basic training at Fort Jackson in Columbia, and the training base is restricting access to only essential personnel.
Officials with Roper St. Francis Healthcare said on Tuesday that four more patients have tested positive for COVID-19, bringing the hospital system total to 127 patients, 40 of whom have since been "cleared of the virus."
Fourteen patients were hospitalized as of Tuesday, officials said. In addition, 24 patients have been isolated across Roper's hospital system and are awaiting COVID-19 test results.
So far, 15 Roper employees have tested positive for the virus, officials said.
In Charleston County, officials are encouraging people to sign up for the "Smart911" system, a free service that allows individuals to provide critical medical information to first responders, including whether they have self-quarantined.
"This is a great tool for citizens to improve the safety of our first responders as COVID-19 continues to spread," said Charleston County Consolidated 911 Center Director Jim Lake. "By signing up for Smart911, individuals can help first responders get the key information they need about every person who may need assistance, not only during this outbreak, but during any emergency."
Anyone who's interested in signing up can register themselves and their household at www.smart911.com or on the Smart911 app, available for Apple and Android devices.
DHEC has ordered 2,500 transparent sneeze guards for offices, stores and restaurants to place between staff and customers. On Tuesday, the department shared a print file with instructions for individuals to make their own guards.
Mikaela Porter and Thomas Novelly contributed to this report.