FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
March 14, 2020
COLUMBIA, S.C. — The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) is investigating six additional cases of the COVID-19 novel coronavirus. This brings the total number of cases statewide to 19.
As the state’s case counts expectedly increase, DHEC will publicly report information about facilities and locations that impacted communities should be aware of where special precautions may be needed.
“We emphasize the importance of practicing disease prevention measures and following recommendations for social distancing to protect our community as a whole,” said Dr. Linda Bell, State Epidemiologist.
Preliminary information for new cases
Three new cases are from Beaufort County. Two cases are close contacts of each other and had known exposure to a confirmed case of COVID-19 from another state. The other case has no know connection to any other case and recently traveled internationally. All three cases are currently isolated at home.
Two new cases are from Kershaw County who have no identified source of exposure. Both are currently hospitalized and isolated.
One new case is from Lexington County who is currently hospitalized and isolated. This individual has no known exposure to another case and no recent travel history to an impacted area.
The Lexington County case was a resident of Lexington Medical Center Extended Care Skilled Nursing Facility. The source of this patient’s exposure is being investigated. DHEC is working with the facility to identify all contacts and is providing guidance about infection control measures to prevent spread.
“We are working closely with this extended care facility to immediately investigate possible exposures in an effort to mitigate any potential spread at this facility,” said Dr. Bell. “The facility is completely cooperative as we work through our contact investigation and staff are abiding by DHEC’s and CDC’s recommended actions for helping to protect this higher-risk population.”
Yesterday, in conjunction with Governor McMaster’s state of emergency declaration, DHEC immediately began restricting visitation to nursing homes and assisted living facilities, with the exception of end-of-life situations, to help better safeguard this vulnerable population against COVID-19.
“Our top priorities remain preventing the spread of the disease and protecting the public health,” Bell said. “This includes working to control spread and measures that best protect all individuals. We encourage the public to maintain their daily routines of protecting against illness by practicing good hygiene and handwashing, and individuals with signs of illness are asked to take seriously the recommendation to stay home from school and work and not attend public gatherings.”
People with symptoms such as fever, cough or shortness of breath should call their healthcare provider. If an individual doesn’t have a primary care physician, several healthcare systems are providing telehealth services so residents may be evaluated by a healthcare provider without having to leave their homes. If it’s determined an individual should be tested, they will be instructed where to go to be tested. Individuals with minor illness are advised not to go to emergency departments.
Learn more about the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’s guidance for infection control in healthcare facilities here. For more information about COVID-19, visit scdhec.gov/COVID19 or the CDC website here.