By MICHELLE LIU, Associated Press/Report for America
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — A week after announcing a record-shattering 2,470 COVID-19 cases in one day, South Carolina health officials said Friday the state had eclipsed that figure by several hundred.
The Department of Health and Environmental Control reported 3,137 confirmed cases and 47 additional deaths Friday. More than 220,000 cases have been recorded in the state since the beginning of the outbreak, and 4,332 South Carolinians have died due to COVID-19, according to the health agency.
The rising numbers come as the state lays out its plan to vaccinate frontline healthcare workers and then eventually the rest of the population. Officials say that with limited supplies, the vaccine isn’t an immediate solution.
“While the arriving vaccine is the light at the end of the tunnel, it will be months before there is enough vaccine available for everyone,” said a statement from Brannon Traxler, the state’s interim public health director. “It is incumbent upon all of us to continue to take actions aimed at saving lives.”
Top state health and hospital officials have said case and hospital numbers are returning to levels not seen since the state’s last spike over the summer.
The past week has also seen 7.7% of all COVID-19 cases in South Carolina since the pandemic began in early March — 17,266 cases since last Friday.
As they have done for months, the health experts also pleaded with South Carolinians to help reduce the spread of the virus by measures such as wearing a face mask, practicing social distancing and getting tested when sick.
Gov. Henry McMaster has also called on residents to take personal responsibility for the health of their families and communities during his sporadic news conferences about the state’s virus response.
Still, the governor has repeatedly insisted that he would not implement any statewide restrictions on businesses or mask mandates to help curb the virus’s reach, having lifted most of the state’s remaining restrictions this fall. On Wednesday, he likened closing down a business to “killing that business.”
Among South Carolinians themselves, deaths due to COVID-19 are also climbing. The 7-day rolling average of daily deaths in the state has risen over the past two weeks from 16.57 deaths per day on Nov. 26 to 23 deaths per day on Dec. 10, according to The COVID Tracking Project.
Earlier this week, state epidemiologist Linda Bell warned that South Carolina could see another 3,000 deaths by April 2021 on its current trajectory.
“No one else should have to die from COVID-19, but unfortunately we will see more death,” Bell told reporters.
If 95% of South Carolinians wore masks when needed within a week, 1,000 fewer residents would die, Bell added.
Follow AP coverage of the pandemic at https://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak.
Jeffrey Collins contributed to this report.
Michelle Liu is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.
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