SC coronavirus updates: COVID-19 cases surpass 163,000

We’re tracking the most up-to-date information about the coronavirus in South Carolina. Check back for updates.

Cases pass 163,000

At least 163,143 people have tested positive for the coronavirus in South Carolina, and 3,567 have died, according to state health officials.

The S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control on Sunday reported 1,281 new COVID-19 cases, up from 628 the day before.

Seven coronavirus-related deaths were reported Sunday.

The percentage of positive COVID-19 tests was 11.1% as of Sunday. Health officials have said that number should be 5% or lower.

On Sunday, 725 people in South Carolina were hospitalized with coronavirus-related symptoms, down from

743 the day before.

Pence to visit SC after outbreak among staff

Vice President Mike Pence will appear at a “Make America Great Again Victory Rally” in Greenville on Tuesday, President Donald Trump’s campaign said in a news release.

The rally is scheduled to start at 3:30 p.m. at Donaldson Airport.

He’s appearing at the event after a COVID-19 outbreak among members of his staff. At least five people in his office, including including chief of staff Marc Short, have tested positive for the virus in recent days, The New York Times reports.

Pence and his wife, Karen, tested negative for COVID-19 on Sunday, according to The Associated Press.

Pence has been declared an “essential worker” and will continue on the campaign trail, the White House says.

Supreme Court asked to reverse school ruling

The Justice Department is pushing the S.C. Supreme Court to reverse its 5-0 decision that earlier this month prevented Gov. Henry McMaster from spending $32 million in federal coronavirus relief funds on state private schools.

Peter McCoy, the U.S. Attorney for South Carolina, wrote in a filing with the Supreme Court that the Justice Department is seeking friend of the court status to ask that it grant a new hearing to reconsider its decision on the relief funds. The filing says the U.S. Department of Education had concluded that it is lawful to spend coronavirus relief funds on private and independent schools.

McMaster’s lawyers have filed a petition with the state high court, asking it to reconsider its ruling and grant a new hearing in the case.

The court ruled Oct. 7 that federal funds sent to South Carolina for coronavirus emergency education relief cannot be spent on the state’s private schools.

Chief Justice Donald Beatty wrote in the majority opinion that state Constitution makes it clear that public money cannot be used toward private schools.

McMaster said in July he was designating $32 million in federal COVID-19 relief funds to pay one-time tuition grants of up to $6,500 per student for about 5,000 private school K-12 students across the state.

Anti-mask movement grows in Beaufort County

A movement opposing mask mandates is putting pressure on local leaders and questioning health officials.

The small group of face mask opponents has participated in public comment, spammed local government meeting live streams and protested bi-weekly, The Island Packet reports.

Some local leaders tell The Island Packet they’ve been bombarded with thousands of calls and emails in support and in opposition of mask mandates.

Masks, when used with other preventative measures, help slow the spread of COVID-19, health experts have said. In Beaufort County, mask mandates have coincided with a slowed transmission of COVID-19 in every ZIP code that implemented one.

“With our children’s safety and education at stake, wearing a mask isn’t a burden or intrusion,” wrote DHEC’s top epidemiologist in an op-ed in The State newspaper this month. “It’s a duty.”

Beaufort trends improve, but experts fear months ahead

As of Friday, only three coronavirus-positive patients were admitted at Beaufort Memorial Hospital, and none were in its intensive care unit.

The county’s seven-day average of positive COVID-19 tests dropped below 4% earlier last week. While it had ticked up to 6% by Thursday, that’s still far below July levels.

Daily case counts are regularly in the single digits, and the county’s two-week incidence rate, or infections per 100,000 people, has fallen into a “moderate” range. State health officials Thursday also classified the county as having a “low” level of recent disease activity.

Beaufort County was the only area listed in that category statewide.

But health experts worry about what’s to come.

Dr. Michael Sweat, a professor at the Medical University of South Carolina who leads the COVID-19 Epidemiology Intelligence Project, told The Island Packet the holidays and cooler months could trigger a surge of new infections.

“We really need to brace ourselves,” Sweat said.

141 new cases in K-12 schools

The state Department of Health and Environmental Control on Friday reported 141 new cases of coronavirus in South Carolina K-12 schools, marking two consecutive weeks of triple digit increases.

The DHEC reports school coronavirus data twice a week, on Tuesdays and Fridays. Last Friday, 200 new cases were confirmed, followed by 148 cases on Tuesday.

The growing case counts come as more schools across the state move to reopen classrooms and return to more traditional face-to-face learning, The State reported.

There have been 1,772 positive COVID-19 tests in S.C. schools since the semester began, with students making up 1,242, and staff accounting for 530.

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Bailey Aldridge is a reporter covering real-time news in North and South Carolina. She has a degree in journalism from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

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