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SC logs new high of daily coronavirus cases; officials warn against Fourth of July festivities

DHEC reports 1,741 cases, 17 deaths

  • Updated
COVID-19 Coronavirus Testing in Lab

An MUSC Clinical Laboratory Scientist prepares samples to be run through the testing instruments to test for COVID-19. File/MUSC/Provided

South Carolina reported a new daily record of coronavirus cases on Tuesday. Out of the more than 1,700 cases reported, Charleston County saw 375 cases, also a record.

Roper St. Francis Healthcare said its hospitals saw a 65 percent spike in COVID-19 patients in a single day, from  46 inpatients on Monday to 76 Tuesday. Beginning Monday, they'll postpone elective surgeries that would require overnight care, in order to free up beds as cases swell statewide.

Health officials are recommending that South Carolina residents try to celebrate the Fourth of July at home to slow the spread of COVID-19.

That includes avoiding the beaches.

Families should avoid gatherings and plan festivities at home or watch fireworks virtually or from their vehicles, the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control said Tuesday.

Young people in particular should be careful to reduce their chances of infection. South Carolina has seen a 996 percent increase in those aged 11 to 20 and a 413 percent increase in those aged 21 to 30 testing positive for the coronavirus, DHEC said.

Statewide numbers

Number of new cases reported: 1,741, a new record

Total number of cases in S.C.: 36,297

Number of new deaths reported: 17

Total number of deaths in S.C.: 735

Number of hospitalized patients: 1,021

Percent of tests that were positive: 19 percent

Total number of tests in S.C.: 420,061

Which areas are hardest-hit?

Charleston County again led the state in new confirmed infections on Tuesday with 375 cases, a new record. Horry County followed with 170 cases, then Richland County with 137 and Greenville County with 125.

What’s happening in the tri-county region?

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The tri-county continued to see high coronavirus case numbers on Tuesday. In addition to 375 cases in Charleston County, Berkeley counted 70 and Dorchester saw 87.

The Roper St. Francis Healthcare system reported that the number of COVID-19 patients being treated in their four hospitals spiked 65 percent in one day, from 46 patients on Monday to 76 on Tuesday. Starting Monday, they will stop elective surgeries that require overnight stays in order to keep beds free.

After a staff member tested positive, Dorchester County Magistrate Court is closed for the rest of the week and hearings are canceled while the facility is cleaned.

Deaths

Of the newly deceased patients, 15 were individuals above the age of 65 living in Aiken, Berkeley, Charleston, Dillon, Edgefield, Florence, Greenville, Horry, Lexington, McCormick, Orangeburg, Pickens and Spartanburg counties. Two were between the ages of 35 and 65 and resided in Florence and Richland counties.

Officials are working to confirm another two deaths related to suspected coronavirus infections.

According to data updated Tuesday by DHEC, 324 of the total deaths in the state have been among patients in long-term care facilities. Overall, 1,769 cases have been reported among such residents, along with 887 cases among staff and four related deaths.

How to stop the spread

Medical experts and government officials have begged people to wear masks as cases spike. While Gov. Henry McMaster declined to issue a statewide mask-wearing mandate, several cities have enacted ordinances within city limits.

The state Department of Health and Environmental Control also asked that South Carolinians avoid crowds, stay 6 feet away from others outside their households, and regularly wash their hands.

What do experts say?

The rise in the number of people hospitalized with the virus has concerned medical officials.

Dr. Lee Biggs, chief medical officer for Trident Health, said the hospital system has 51 COVID-19 patients. That is more than double the 21 patients the health system had a week before.

The hospital is admitting about a third of its COVID-19 patients, which Biggs said is a sign that cases are more serious. 

“This COVID surge is on a 7-day doubling cycle, which is incredibly white hot and dangerous," he said, referring to increased numbers in area hospitals.

Biggs is concerned these trends will continue. If leaders are making public health decisions based on hopes for an economic boost during the July 4 weekend, Biggs said the consequences could be dire.

"In doing that, are we going to be writing a check that we’re never able to pay for?” he said.

MK Wildeman contributed to this report.

Reach Fleming Smith at 843-937-5591. Follow her on Twitter at @MFlemingSmith.

Fleming Smith covers crime and public safety for the Charleston area. A native Georgian, she previously covered breaking news and features for The Wall Street Journal and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

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