CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - Officials with the Department of Health and Environmental Control are now calling South Carolina a hotspot for COVID-19 after announcing 1,273 new cases in the state on Friday which is the second highest number of confirmed cases in a single day.
Dr. Joan Duwve, director of public health for DHEC, spoke on Friday during Gov. Henry McMaster’s press conference and pointed to the fact that governors in other states have announced that visitors to their states from South Carolina must quarantine.
Friday’s cases brings the total number of people confirmed to have COVID-19 in the state to 30,263 with 694 deaths reported.
In addition, Duwve reported that the state has 906 people who are currently hospitalized because of complications due to COVID-19, which is another record.
“South Carolina is making national and international headlines, but not in the way we’d like,” Duvwe said.”Our state’s numbers have drastically increased over the past few weeks, making us now one of the hotspots in the country for COVID-19.”
Governors for six states, including New York, have announced that anyone traveling to their state from South Carolina will have to automatically quarantine for 14 days.
“When I arrived here at the beginning of April, it was just the opposite,” Duvwe said. ”New York, which was once our country’s epicenter for COVID-19, is now having to quarantine South Carolinians who come.”
She said one of the more alarming trends in the state is the number of young people who are testing positive for the virus.
According to Duwve, since April 4, South Carolina has seen a 414% increase in newly reported cases among the 21 to 30 age group, and a 966% increase in newly reported COVID-19 cases among those between the ages of 11 and 20.
DHEC officials said they are aware of clusters of cases among teenagers and young adults who have spent time together in social settings, including parties and trips to beaches.
“They didn’t wear masks and they didn’t social distance,” Duvwe said. ”And many of them contracted the virus which not only caused them to be sick, but put the health of their families and their entire communities at risk.”
State health officials said they have observed infection rates from groups that have gone to the beach are high, and urged people who went to the beach to get tested for the virus.
“If you’ve gone to the beach, you’ve likely come in contact with somebody who is positive, but perhaps asymptomatic,” Duvwe said. “So if you’ve been to the beach, especially on a school trip or participated in group activities, not wearing your mask, not socially distance, it would be a good idea to find a pop up testing site and go and get tested, and that’s at no charge.”
Duvwe reiterated the governor’s and state officials recommendation on the importance of social distancing and wearing a mask to stop the spread of the virus.
“We know that you’re tired of hearing it, and we’re tired of saying it. But we’ll continue to say it, until more people heed our recommendations, wear a mask,” Duvwe said. “Social distance from others by at least six feet. Avoid group gatherings. Wash your hands and stay home when you’re sick.”
State health officials said there is no vaccine or cure yet, and said it was individual actions that will help everybody.
“Wear a mask, wear a mask, wear mask,” said Gov. Henry McMaster reiterating state health officials recommendations.
McMaster stressed that it was up to individuals to help stop the spread of the virus, as he passed on the idea on Friday of mandating everyone in the state to wear a mask.
“It is ineffective, it is impractical to have a mandate to have everyone wear a mask, because it is not enforceable,” McMaster said during Friday afternoon’s press conference. “There’s no power on Earth that can follow everyone in the state around to be sure that they are following the rules.”
The governor said issuing a mandate to wear a mask and not be able to enforce it gives a false sense of security for those who believe that everybody is following the rules. He did say that cities have some authority to issue mandates on face masks, and pointed out that every municipality has different circumstances.
“If they want to impose a reasonable legal limitation, then there’s no obstacle to them,” McMaster said. “But enforcement is the problem and enforcement is the challenge.”
The City of Charleston passed a resolution on Thursday requiring people to wear masks when in public places to reduce the risk of exposure to COVID-19.
People in the city will have to wear a mask in restaurants, retail stores, and public spaces which include curbside pickup, delivery, and service calls.
Mayor John Tecklenburg said the city will also be working with businesses and giving them signs to put up which would contain information on wearing masks and the reason to wear one.