Coronavirus updates in SC: DHEC reports 160 new COVID-19 cases in South Carolina
Note: The coronavirus outbreak is a rapidly developing event, and this story contains information that was only updated through April 22, 2020. Some of the information here may have changed because of the breaking nature of the pandemic; updates are reflected in more current stories. For our the latest on the coronavirus outbreak and its impact on South Carolina visit greenvillenews.com or independentmail.com.
SC COVID-19 map: County-by-county look at coronavirus cases
Coronavirus noticias: Reaperturas empiezan en Carolina del Sur
SC Democrats petition state Supreme Court on election rules
South Carolina Democrats filed a petition with the state Supreme Court to determine if people who practice social distancing to avoid COVID-19 qualify as physically disabled persons who are eligible for absentee voting.
If the court decides they are, "all South Carolinians would be eligible to cast absentee ballots in the upcoming elections," the petition states.
Elections officials, governor sued over absentee voting rules
Voting rights advocates filed a lawsuit Wednesday against South Carolina elections officials and Gov. Henry McMaster for absentee voting rules they say will dissuade people from voting during the coronavirus pandemic.
At issue is a rule that voters submit a valid excuse to not vote in person as well as a rule that a witness signs an absentee ballot for it to be counted. The lawsuit comes less than two months before South Carolinians are scheduled to vote in the June 9 primary.
Lawmaker urges McMaster to reopen restaurants with outdoor seating
A South Carolina legislator asked Gov. Henry McMaster to allow some restaurants to begin reopening.
On Wednesday, Rep. Todd Rutherford, D-Richland sent a letter to McMaster, requesting “an executive order to allow qualified restaurants to serve patrons at their place of business, while adhering to social distancing guidelines.”
Such guidelines, the letter stated would include restaurants with outdoor seating — with tables spaced at least six feet apart — should be allowed to serve customers who are members of the same household.
Greenville proms canceled, graduation surveys in the works
No proms will be held for students in Greenville County this year, and school officials are deciding what to do about graduations, according to a statement from Greenville County Schools.
Seniors will be surveyed on their preferences on graduation ceremonies. It will include options for format, location and timing. Parents will also be surveyed.
"We expect to be able to announce tentative plans about graduations by mid-May," the statement read. "In this rapidly changing environment, it is impossible for us to know exactly what, if any, restrictions will be in place at the time that may impact the ceremonies."
Lawsuit alleges state failed to protect inmates from COVID-19
The American Civil Liberties Union of South Carolina has filed a lawsuit against Gov. Henry McMaster, the state Board of Paroles and Pardons, and the head of the state Department of Corrections, saying they failed to protect inmates, especially the most vulnerable ones, from COVID-19.
The lawsuit was filed late Tuesday, the same day prison officials announced Kirkland Correctional Institution in Columbia was put on lockdown after a second inmate there tested positive for the coronavirus.
The lawsuit includes allegations that inmates are not able to have "any meaningful social distance," that state officials failed to reduce the prison population, and there is inadequate testing for COVID-19.
Furman University accepting students for next school year
Furman University re-opened admissions and is again accepting student applications for the 2020-21 year.
The announcement comes as higher education institutions across the country brace for a potential decline in enrollment in the fall because of the coronavirus.
Furman stopped accepting applications in January, which was the original application deadline.
Brad Pochard, associate vice president for enrollment, said admissions were reopened because students asked about extending the deadline.
“Our world was a lot different in January than it is right now,” Pochard said.
DHEC reports 160 new COVID-19 cases in South Carolina
State health officials said Wednesday that five additional people with COVID-19 have died in South Carolina, and 160 more people have tested positive for the virus.
Of the five newly reported deaths, three were elderly people from Berkeley, Clarendon and Richland counties. The other two were middle-aged residents of Greenville and Spartanburg counties, according to the state Department of Health and Environmental Control.
DHEC officials also said Wednesday that seven COVID-19 cases previously reported in South Carolina have been determined to be residents of other states and are no longer in the count of the state's total cases.
On Tuesday, the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control reported 172 new cases and 11 additional deaths.
Since the pandemic began, 4,761 people in South Carolina have tested positive and 140 people have died.
DHEC does not provide information about when tests were conducted.
NewSpring Church holds blood drives this week
NewSpring Church will open its 13 campuses for blood donation drives starting Thursday with Anderson.
Clemson and Powdersville will hold blood drives Friday and Greenville and Spartanburg on Saturday. The blood drives are from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
To learn more visit NewSpring's website.
Public schools to stay closed for remainder of school year
Public elementary, middle and high schools in South Carolina will remain closed for the rest of the school year, Gov. Henry McMaster announced Wednesday during a press conference with state Superintendent Molly Spearman.
Students will continue school through virtual classes and a task force of educators and healthcare workers will determine how public schools will handle the fall, Spearman said.
Following McMaster's announcement, Greenville private school Bob Jones Academy, which teaches K3-12, announced it will also continue virtual classes through at least the rest of the school year.
SC gets roughly $1.2 million from federal government for rural areas
South Carolina will receive just under $1.2 million from the U.S. Department of Health and Human services to combat the novel coronavirus pandemic in the state's rural areas, according to a statement from the federal agency.
DHHS awarded the funding to the South Carolina Office of Rural Health to support small rural hospitals throughout the state.
MUSC to participate in study of potential COVID-19 treatment
MUSC Health will participate in a national study to determine the effectiveness of the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine in treating patients with COVID-19.
Up to 550 patients will be enrolled in the study, which is funded by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.
Dr. Andrew Goodwin, a specialist in acute respiratory distress syndrome and an associate professor in the College of Medicine at the Medical University of South Carolina, said the study is important because there are no proven therapies for the disease.
In addition, there’s so much uncertainty about whether the drug works or is harmful, said Goodwin, who will lead MUSC Health’s part of the trial.
The hospital will be looking for patients who have confirmed infection, have had symptoms for 10 days or less, and who haven’t been taking hydroxychloroquine already.
SC health company offers free mental health app amid pandemic
Sharpen, a South Carolina-based health content and technology company, has released a free app to provide mental health resources to college students amid the COVID-19 outbreak.
With classes transferred online, graduations canceled and stay-at-home orders, college students may be experiencing mental and emotional stress, officials said. Sharpen collaborates with licensed mental health providers to provide students self-help information, techniques and guidance.
Participating schools include Furman University, USC Upstate, Spartanburg Methodist College and Limestone College.
To learn more, go to sharpenhealth.com.
Spartanburg Medical, Bon Secours joins FDA's convalescent plasma program
Bon Secours St. Francis Health System and Spartanburg Regional Healthcare System have joined the Food and Drug Administration's convalescent plasma program as a possible treatment for COVID-19, according to a statement from the system.
The program uses the plasma from people who have already had the virus and developed anitbodies to the novel coronavirus to potentially treat severe cases. While the effectiveness of the treatment is still being researched, convalescent plasma has been effectively used to treat diseases such as polio, measles and hepatitis B in the past, the statement said.
“This could potentially save lives here in the Upstate while also providing us with important information about treating this virus – information that will be invaluable to hospitals across the country as we continue this fight together,” said Dr. Chuck Morrow, chief medical officer and vice president for medical affairs.
The FDA designated the Mayo Clinic as the program's lead institution, but has expanded it to heath care providers such as Bon Secours to meet the growing need for treatment options.
What to know Wednesday
- State parks in South Carolina are expected to reopen May 1.
- Beaches and some retail stores were able to reopen Tuesday, but some municipalities decided to keep their beaches closed.
- The Senate passed a $484 billion aid package for small business loans, hospitals and COVID-19 testing. The House will take up the measure later this week.
- We now know more about about COVID-19 in the state's nursing homes and assisted living facilities. The state Department of Health and Environmental Control released a list of facilities and how many people with COVID-19 have tested positive there.
- There were 172 new cases of COVID-19 reported Tuesday and 11 more people with the illness have died. There have been 4,608 people to test positive in South Carolina and 135 people have died. DHEC estimates 72% of people who have tested positive have recovered.