S.C. governor declares state of emergency; orders Kershaw, Lancaster county schools to close

S.C. governor declares state of emergency; orders Kershaw, Lancaster county schools to close
The governor said he will order all schools to close in Kershaw and Lancaster counties, where the virus is spreading from person-to-person. (Source: AP/CDC)

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Gov. Henry McMaster has announced he will declare a state of emergency for South Carolina amid the spread of novel coronavirus, or COVID-19.

The governor also said he will order all schools to close in Kershaw and Lancaster counties, where the virus is spreading from person-to-person in the community.

Schools there will remain closed for 14 days, the governor announced.

“We have no evidence that the cancelation of schools and events outside of Lancaster and Kershaw counties is needed at this time,” said Dr. Linda Bell.

There are 13 cases of coronavirus in the state -- nine in Kershaw County, two in Lancaster County, one in Charleston County and one in Spartanburg County as of Friday evening.

McMaster also ordered the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) to consult with the state’s Superintendent of Education to “provide guidance on if and when remaining school districts should decide to close schools and for what period of time.”

The governor said he will keep state government offices open during normal business hours.

A big concern for many in our state was access to coronavirus testing. That is something state health officials addressed Friday, making major changes in hopes to make tests more widely available.

“Previously DHEC was required to have all individuals meet certain CDC criteria and approve testing through our lab, but at this time DHEC will no longer have to approve testing,” said Dr. Bell. “We will leave it up to the discretion of individual health care providers to make a recommendation for who should be tested.”

Despite the tests being more widely available, Bell said the criteria for being tested remains the same.

“Because the test is indicated for people who are ill, with symptoms consistent with it, that means that, that number of people are meeting the criteria,” Bell added.

As reported previously, visitation at state and local correctional facilities is suspended.

The governor also said DHEC “shall immediately restrict visitation to nursing homes and assisted living facilities with the exception of end of life situations.”

With the state of emergency declaration, price gouging laws will go into effect and a State Emergency Management Plan will be activated.

“Although we are not currently seeing widespread transmission in South Carolina, we expect to see more cases,” Dr. Linda Bell, State Epidemiologist, said. “We’ll continue to monitor CDC guidance and recommendations.”

Bell emphasized -- the majority of people who get coronavirus will only experience mild symptoms.

So far, 123 people have been tested for coronavirus in South Carolina, according to DHEC’s website.

Officials said previously they have the ability to test up to 100 people a day, but it’s clear far fewer people than that are getting tested.

Cases are required to be confirmed by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). However, DHEC says they treat all presumptive positives as cases of COVID-19.

President Donald Trump declared coronavirus a national emergency Friday. Click or tap here for more on the president’s declaration.

FACTS ABOUT CORONAVIRUS

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said the coronavirus is spread mainly from person-to-person by those in close contact, or through coughing and sneezing by someone who’s infected.

Symptoms of coronavirus can show up between two and 14 days of exposure, health officials say. Symptoms include fever, cough and shortness of breath.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. But some severe cases can lead to death.

Protecting yourself from coronavirus

Those who are at the highest risk of catching COVID-19 are the young, the elderly and those who are already being treated for chronic medical diseases.

Young people who contract the virus are not likely to have a serious case, research shows.

Doctors say there is not currently a treatment or vaccine for COVID-19, but over-the-counter medications, like cold and cough medicines, can help treat symptoms of the virus.

The mortality rate for people with the virus has been widely reported around 2 to 3%, but health experts note the actual percentage is not that high, as not all cases are diagnosed or reported.

The rate is higher than the flu, which kills on average about 0.1% of people who get it, based on a 10-year average of data from the CDC.

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Anyone with concerns about their health, or who believes they are showing symptoms such as fever, cough, or shortness of breath, should call their health care provider.

People with general questions about coronavirus should call the DHEC Care Line at 855-472-3432. The line is open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. every day. Callers are urged to be patient as call volumes are high.

People without a doctor can take advantage of free online screening from Prisma Health and the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC).

MUSC has an online platform to aid with coronavirus diagnosis and care. Go to www.musc.care and access the COVID-19 platform. The service is free with code: COVID19.

Prisma Health also recently launched a free virtual visit, which allows patients to video conference with a doctor instead of coming into a facility. The goal is to keep patients who don’t need to be treated at a hospital at home. Go to primsahealth.org/virtual-visit and use promo code COVID19 for a free virtual visit.

For more information on COVID-19, click or tap here to visit the CDC’s website.

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