COLUMBIA, S.C. — Two more people tested positive for the new coronavirus in South Carolina, both connected to the original case of a woman in a small city northeast of Columbia, state health officials said Tuesday.
The state now has nine people diagnosed with COVID-19. Two of the cases have been confirmed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, while federal testing on the other seven are pending.
The South Carolina Department of Health and Environment Control said the two new cases in Kershaw County are household contacts who tested presumptive positive for COVID-19 and are currently hospitalized.
Another two of the cases had close face-to-face contact with a Kershaw County elderly woman who was announced as a confirmed positive case by the CDC.
One of the cases is a woman who was initially hospitalized for reasons unrelated to COVID-19 and is now isolated. The other was an elderly man who was taken to a health care facility for a short period of time but has since been released and is in isolation at his home.
“We now have evidence of community spread that’s likely to be causing these initial cases in Camden and Kershaw County, and the risk of spread to other communities is possible, as seen in other states across the country,” said Dr. Linda Bell, state epidemiologist. “We are working with the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) and state and local officials to limit community spread while continuing with our protocol for identifying travel-related cases in the state.”
The third case is a woman from Camden who had no connection to other possible cases in Kershaw County and was evaluated at a health care facility and is now isolated at her home, according to officials.
Another presumptive case was announced Monday afternoon and it is man from Kershaw County. He is not hospitalized and is isolated at home.
The fifth case is a man from Spartanburg County with no connection to other possible cases in South Carolina. He was not hospitalized and is also in isolation at his home. He recently traveled to Italy and flew through Charlotte Douglas airport on his way home, according to a news release from health officials.
“Healthcare authorities in South Carolina have been preparing for this eventuality and there is no reason for public alarm. DHEC is working with the CDC on confirmation for these cases. South Carolinians should continue to follow recommendations and information provided by official sources," said Gov. Henry McMaster in a statement.
Officials said Friday that one patient is an elderly woman from Kershaw County. She has been hospitalized and is in isolation, according to a news release from health officials.
Health officials said she has no known exposure, but it is under investigation. The CDC confirmed she had a positive case of coronavirus on Monday.
The seventh case is a woman in her 30s from Charleston County who recently traveled to France and Italy. Officials said she is from the Medical University of South Carolina, but did not say if she is a student or a staff member.
“She’s been following protocol, she’s been making the right decisions. The system’s been working and I want to thank her for that," said David J. Cole, the Medical University of South Carolina’s president.
According to officials, she did not require hospitalization and is symptom-free as of Sunday and continues to self-monitor. Officials said they have been in contact with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to determine if she may have impacted others during her flight from Europe to Charleston.
The CDC confirmed she had a positive case of coronavirus on Monday.
“We understand that residents have concerns about how the virus may impact South Carolinians,” Bell said. “While the risk to the public remains low, there is no evidence of ongoing transmission in the community at this time, and our primary goals remain prevention and control.”
Officials said the original two cases announced Friday are not linked, officials said.
DHEC is working to identify anyone who might have been in contact with the patients.
The samples submitted tested positive at DHEC’s Public Health Laboratory.
The results are required to be confirmed by the CDC laboratory and are in the process of being submitted for this confirmatory testing.
DHEC officials said they will update the public as soon as the test results from the CDC are available, which typically takes 24 to 48 hours after the specimens are received.
Also in Kershaw County, two high school students who were interning at the hospital when the coronavirus patient was there are at home, even though they did not have direct contact with her. One went to Camden High School and the other, North Central.
Mary Anne Byrd is with the Kershaw County School District. She said the district has increased campus cleanings of classrooms, restrooms and buses. They have also changed some cafeteria procedures so students aren’t serving their own food or punched in their meal plan codes on a keypad. They will be calling them out to staff instead.
“We are following Kershaw Health’s protocol, and that is those two students are being self-isolated now, for two weeks,” Byrd said.
Byrd said there was a meeting in Camden with emergency management Monday morning, where the advice was that local schools should stick with normal school operations at this time. However, the district did sent out notice to parents Sunday night about what they’re doing and why.
The DHEC has tested 18 people for coronavirus, including the six presumptive positives. The remaining tests are negative.
DHEC has the ability to test 80 to 100 patients per day, officials said.
McMaster reiterated that the risk to the public is low and South Carolina residents should continue to follow basic daily illness prevention such as washing hands, using an alcohol-based cleanser and staying home if you are sick.
“Go about your daily lives with the understanding that there is a new virus and that there are ways to protect yourself from it," said McMaster.
He and the other health officials said they have been preparing for this for weeks and are even better prepared because of past diseases that have hit the state, like Zika virus and the flu.
McMaster also explained why it was too early to declare a state of emergency in South Carolina.
“This is going as precisely as we believed it would,” McMaster said. “All the protocols and procedures, the people are all stood up alert, activated. We had the systems to respond. So, it’s way to early for any of those considerations.”
They also added coronavirus to the list of virtual care items through MUSC Health, where if you have mild to moderate symptoms, you can get in contact with a medical doctor at home.
Health officials said since it was launched, more than 1,100 people have logged in to be screened by medical professionals.
The Medical University of South Carolina’s president also said the university is trying to create better access to testing.
Check back with wsoctv.com for updates.
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