‘Community spread’ likely cause of some S.C. novel coronavirus cases

RAW VIDEO: Gov. McMaster holds Monday news briefing on possible S.C. coronavirus cases

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - South Carolina health officials say there is now evidence of "community spread" believed to be causing multiple cases of the novel coronavirus in Kershaw County.

That word came Monday afternoon at a briefing from Gov. Henry McMaster and other state leaders.

“We now have evidence of community spread that’s likely to be causing these initial cases in Camden in Kershaw County and the risk of spread to other communities is possible, as seen in other states across the country,” State Epidemiologist Dr. Linda Bell said. “We are working with the [Centers for Disease Control] and state and local officials to limit community spread while continuing with our protocol for identifying travel-related cases in the state.”

Community spread means people have been infected with the virus in an area, including some who are not sure how or where they became infected, the CDC’s website states.

2 of 7 possible COVID-19 cases in S.C. confirmed

The first two cases of novel coronavirus, COVID-19, reported in the state have been confirmed by federal authorities.

Those two cases are in Kershaw County and Charleston County.

SPECIAL SECTION: Coronavirus coverage

Five additional people have tested presumptive positive by the state’s Department of Health and Environmental Control testing. “Presumptive positive” means samples from these individuals tested positive for COVID-19 at DHEC’s Public Health Laboratory, however, these results are required to be confirmed by the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention. It takes 24-48 hours for the CDC to confirm samples after they’re received, DHEC says.

DHEC says it is monitoring 14 people who have either traveled in an area where the virus has been detected or have come into contact with someone known to have the illness. DHEC monitors potential cases for 14 days after possible exposure. If no symptoms appear during that time, the patients are cleared of having the virus.

The agency says it has completed monitoring of an additional 60 people. A total of 24 tests have come back negative.

Here’s what we know about the seven South Carolina cases so far:

DHEC has released the following information on the seven confirmed or positive cases of COVID-19 in the state in accordance with privacy law restrictions. Only the first two patients’ test results have been confirmed by the CDC so far. The remaining five tests are in the process of being confirmed by the CDC.

PATIENT 1: Confirmed; Kershaw County

Patient 1 is an elderly woman in her 80s in Kershaw County. State Epidemiologist Dr. Linda Bell said she began exhibiting symptoms on Feb. 27 and was treated for an unknown illness. She has been hospitalized and is in isolation. She was transferred to a health care facility in the Midlands on Friday to receive a higher level of care. She remains isolated.

PATIENT 2: Confirmed; Charleston County

Patient 2 is a woman in her 30s who is a team member at the Medical University of South Carolina. She recently traveled to France and Italy and first exhibited symptoms on Feb. 28 after she returned to Charleston. She did not require hospitalization or medical treatment and is self-isolated at home. As of Thursday, she remained symptom-free and was continuing to self-monitor.

PATIENT 3: Presumptive positive; Kershaw County

This patient is a woman determined as presumptive positive on Friday. She is a direct contact, meaning close face-to-face contact, with Patient 1. She was hospitalized for reasons unrelated to COVID-19 and is isolated.

PATIENT 4: Presumptive positive; Kershaw County

This patient is an elderly man determined as presumptive positive on Friday. He is a direct contact, meaning close face-to-face contact, with Patient 1. He was temporarily admitted to a healthcare facility, was dicharged and is currently isolated at home.

PATIENT 5: Presumptive positive; Kershaw County

This patient, also determined by test results to be presumptive positive on Friday, is from Camden and has no known connection to Patients 1, 3 or 5. He was evaluated at a healthcare facility, was not hospitalized and currently isolated at home.

PATIENT 6: Presumptive positive; Spartanburg County

This patient is a Spartanburg County man with no known connection to any of the other six patients. He had recently traveled to Italy and returned to the U.S. through the Charlotte Douglas International Airport. He had no symptoms until the day after he returned and he had not traveled to any other U.S. airport. DHEC says it does not have reason to believe there was any risk to airport patrons.

PATIENT 7: Presumptive positive; Kershaw County

A Camden man tested presumptive positive for COVID-19 late Monday. He was evaluated at a healthcare facility, was not hospitalized and is currently isolated at home. He is a direct contact, meaning he had close face-to-face exposure, with a previously announced presumptive positive case.

DHEC urges preventive measures, no recommendations of closing schools, canceling events

Since the earliest reports of the virus and its potential of spreading to South Carolina, state health experts have urged people to practice basic preventive techniques to prevent the spread of viruses that include COVID-19, the flu or even the common cold. Those measures include:

  • Washing your hands frequently
  • Covering your coughs and sneezes
  • Staying home when you feel sick
  • Appropriately disposing of tissues and other items that have potentially been contaminated.

DHEC said it does not recommend closing schools or canceling public events. The agency is monitoring absentee rates in schools and businesses as well as reports of illness in the community to determine if or when closures may be recommended. DHEC also is providing updated recommendations to schools and day care facilities, colleges and universities, and organizers of large events.

Residents who are showing symptoms such as fever, cough or shortness of breath should call their personal doctor or healthcare provider. If an individual doesn’t have a primary care physician, MUSC Health is providing free telehealth screening to all South Carolinians. Anyone experiencing symptoms can visit MUSC.care and use the promo code COVID19 and be screened without having to leave your home.

The DHEC Care Line is available to provide general information about COVID-19 by calling 1-855-472-3432 from 8 a.m.-6 p.m. seven days a week. Because call volume has been high, callers are urged to be patient if they receive a busy signal and try their call at a later time. For general questions about COVID-19, visit the DHEC website at scdhec.gov/COVID19 or the CDC website here.

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