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SC officials record 8 new coronavirus deaths, 125 cases

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Members of the community drive up for boxes of food during a giveaway in the Blue Note Bistro parking lot Wednesday May 13, 2020, in North Charleston. Gavin McIntyre/Staff

State public health officials recorded eight new coronavirus deaths and 125 new cases on Wednesday, bringing totals since the virus was first diagnosed in South Carolina in March to 9,175 cases and 407 deaths.

All eight deaths announced Wednesday were of elderly patients, those 65 or older, according to the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control. Four patients died in Colleton County, and one each died in Clarendon, Fairfield, Lexington and Richland counties. 

As of Wednesday, there were more than 50 mobile testing events scheduled around the state through June 12, DHEC said. To find out more about the clinics or to find one near your residence, visit www.scdhec.gov/covid19mobileclinics

In addition to mobile testing sites, DHEC has set up 144 permanent testing facilities across South Carolina. To find a location near you visit www.scdhec.gov/covid19testing.

The state's hospital bed occupancy rate is 70.41 percent, DHEC said. Of the 7,209 beds in use, 414 are occupied by patients who tested positive for the novel coronavirus or who are awaiting diagnosis of the illness. 

ECIP University, which has campuses in North Charleston, Columbia and Greenville, said on Wednesday it would be reopening but is "taking great care to welcome students back in the safest possible manner."

"Rigorously following CDC guidelines, we believe we have established a reopening plan that will help ensure the safety of our students, faculty, and staff," Chief Operating Officer Barbara Larar said.

Campuses have protocols for cleaning and disinfecting common areas, restrooms and other "high touch" areas each day, according to a statement by the university.

Faculty, staff and students will be required to clean and disinfect their personal workstations, classrooms and labs before starting and ending work each day, the statement said. 

Designated entrances have been set up on each campus and faculty, staff and students will have their temperatures taken before coming inside, the statement said. If someone records a temperature above 100.4 degrees, they will be asked to go home and follow self-quarantine procedures. 

Face coverings or masks will be required in all common areas, and a mask will be provided if someone doesn't have one, the statement said. 

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Campuses will have sanitizing stations set up near all entrances, exits, elevators, stairs and other high-traffic areas, the statement said. Frequent hand washing or sanitizing is encouraged, and all will be asked to refrain from shaking hands and other physical contact. 

Elevators will be limited to two passengers at a time, the statement said. Faculty, staff and students will complete a confidential health assessment prior to returning to work or school, and classrooms and labs have been set up to allow for social distancing. 

The Charleston Area Regional Transportation Authority and TriCounty Link will resume full operations on May 26, officials said on Wednesday. 

Riders will have to wear masks or face coverings while onboard, and masks will be provided to those who do not have one, along with hand sanitizer, officials said. 

"Riders are also encouraged to maintain as much distance from each other and bus operators as possible," according to a statement by CARTA. 

The Route 4 Airport Express and Route 203 Medical Shuttle will return to service at a future date, and the Route 7 HOP shuttle will continue to operate on a limited basis until otherwise announced, CARTA said. 

Full Tel-A-Ride service will resume on June 1, CARTA said.

Meanwhile, as beach communities gear up for the Memorial Day holiday, Isle of Palms City Council will meet on Friday afternoon to discuss increasing daily parking fees in city lots to $10 Monday through Friday, $15 Saturdays and Sundays, and to increase the street parking fee on Ocean Boulevard between 10th and 14th avenues to $2.50 per hour.

This comes after beach communities began, in the past few weeks, to reopen their shores to people outside their communities, drawing thousands of visitors and heavy traffic backups this past weekend.

City Council will also discuss doubling parking violation fees.

Reach Gregory Yee at 843-937-5908. Follow him on Twitter @GregoryYYee.

Gregory Yee covers breaking news and public safety. He's a native Angeleno and previously covered crime and courts for the Press-Telegram in Long Beach, CA. He studied journalism and Spanish literature at the University of California, Irvine.

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