State epidemiologist urges caution as COVID-19 hits record daily high

Five days from the first-ever large-scale COVID-19 testing in the Batesburg-Leesville area, the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control has reported its highest single-day case count since the coronavirus outbreak began.

The latest numbers released late Thursday afternoon show 987 new cases statewide and four new deaths attributable to the pandemic. The total case count stands at 21,533 infections in South Carolina since March.

“This virus does not spread on its own. It’s spread around our state by infected people who carry it wherever they go – their work, the supermarket, the post office, a friend’s house,” said Dr. Linda Bell, the State Epidemiologist, in a statement released with the new data. “By not following public health precautions, many are putting all at risk. It is essential that each of us, every day, wear a mask in public and stay physically distanced from others.”

In Lexington County alone, a total of 45 new COVID-19 cases were reported Thursday. Here in two Batesburg-Leesville zip codes (29006 and 29070), four confirmed new cases have been recorded since Monday, bringing the overall count in our immediate community to 86 since March.

“We understand that what we’re continuing to ask of everyone is not easy and that many are tired of hearing the same warnings and of taking the same daily precautions, but this virus does not take a day off,” Dr. Bell said. “Every day that we don’t all do our part, we are extending the duration of illnesses, missed work, hospitalizations and deaths in our state.”

DHEC has scheduled its first open testing event to identify other undiagnosed cases in the Batesburg-Leesville community on Tuesday, June 23 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Lexington Medical Center is partnering with DHEC for that free coronavirus screening.

DHEC is encouraging even people who have shown no symptoms to participate in Tuesday’s screening, as the virus can be spread by people who are infected but show only minor symptoms or no symptoms at all.

“Healthy people may feel they are resistant to the virus, may feel that even if they contract it, they’ll have mild symptoms and feel better in a few days. This may be true for some – but it’s also true that we are seeing hospitalizations and deaths in those who were previously healthy and in almost every age group,” Dr. Bell said. “Historically, South Carolinians have willingly made sacrifices for the benefit of all. Stopping the spread of this disease will not be easy. However, I am confident in our willingness to take the current actions necessary of wearing face masks and social distancing in order to care for each other. Together we can meet this challenge.”

According to DHEC, the total number of individuals tested statewide on Wednesday statewide was 6,854 (not including antibody tests) and the percent positive was 14.4 percent.

Meanwhile, as of Thursday morning, around 7,021 hospital beds across South Carolina are in use, which is a 70.5 percent utilization rate. Of those inpatient beds currently used, 626 are occupied by patients who have either tested positive or are under investigation for COVID-19.