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SC logs 248 new coronavirus cases, 6 additional deaths as beachgoers flock to coast

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Cam Powell and his father, Andrew, from Aiken, play badminton Saturday on the Isle of Palms during Memorial Day weekend. Grace Beahm Alford/Staff

South Carolina announced an additional 248 known cases of coronavirus Saturday, bringing the state's total to 9,895 confirmed cases and 425 patients who've died.

Another six South Carolinians died between Friday and Saturday afternoon, according to the state Department of Health and Environmental Control. One was a middle-aged Clarendon County resident, while five were above 65 years old and were from Chesterfield, Florence, Marion, Richland and York counties.

On Saturday morning, 430 COVID-19 patients were hospitalized for treatment.

As of Saturday, more than 163,800 tests had been performed in the state. Leaders are operating 62 mobile sites and 145 permanent locations to continue testing residents.

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Isle of Palms police use an emergency lane, marked with cones, along front beach Saturday. Grace Beahm Alford/Staff

Memorial Day weekend began with beachgoers flocking to the coast, filling up available parking and jamming some roads. More than a thousand vehicles headed to Isle of Palms each hour between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., while Sullivan's Island saw at least 800 for each hour in that time. The Isle of Palms connector was backed up past Rifle Range Road by mid-morning, and beach cameras showed the sand packed with small groups of people.

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Isle of Palms had called an emergency meeting after last weekend's crowds hit the beach, saying parking and social distancing were difficult to regulate. Traffic was also bad at Folly Beach but Mayor Tim Goodwin said visitors were, for the most part, maintaining their distance. Sullivan's Island has also dealt with difficulties managing vehicles but has additional regulations in place to curb large groups setting up camp on the sand.

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Mid-afternoon traffic on Isle of Palms flows Saturday continually down Palm Boulevard as visitors head to the beach during Memorial Day weekend. Grace Beahm Alford/Staff

Beach town officials had been concerned about the holiday crowds, and some treated last weekend — the first time Folly Beach, Isle of Palms and Sullivan's Island were all open to visitors — as a dry run for police enforcing social distancing measures.

Lowcountry authorities published a joint statement, asking residents to exercise caution and, if crowds made distancing impossible, avoid parks and beaches for their holiday celebrations.

"Stay vigilant in our fight against COVID-19," Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg said. "I know that if we continue to make good decisions, we can help keep ourselves and our loved ones safe."

Reach Sara Coello at 843-937-5705 and follow her on Twitter @smlcoello.

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