Coronavirus update: Beaufort County up to 12 confirmed cases; state jumps to 173

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By MIKE McCOMBS

The number of confirmed COVID-19 novel coronavirus cases in Beaufort County has reached 12 after four additional cases were reported by the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) on Saturday.

DHEC is investigating 46 additional cases statewide, bringing the total number to 173 cases in 30 counties.

“We can all take steps every day to help limit the spread of this virus,” DHEC physician and medical consultant Dr. Michael Kacka said in a news release. “As the number of positive cases throughout the state is expected to increase, we’re continuing to focus our efforts on preventing spread of the disease with special attention to those who are most high-risk for contracting the virus.”

DHEC reported the state’s second and third deaths related to COVID-19 novel coronavirus on Friday, bringing the state’s total to three

“Sadly, our state has suffered the loss of two of our own,” State Epidemiologist Dr. Linda Bell said in a news release. “In the case of both deaths, the patients had recently been reported to have been diagnosed with COVID-19. On behalf of all South Carolinians, we want to express our deepest sympathy for the families and loved ones of these two individuals.”

Both patients were elderly. One patient, from Florence County, had an underlying health condition. The other, from Charleston County, had an underlying health condition and was a resident of Harmony Assisted Living Facility.

DHEC is working with the facility to identify all contacts and is providing guidance about infection control measures to prevent spread.

“It is never easy to have to report on the deaths of fellow members of our community,” Bell said. “We must continue to do all that we can to protect ourselves and those around us from illness by taking precautions to limit the spread of germs. This is especially important for those at higher risk, like the elderly and people with serious underlying health conditions.”

Gov. McMaster takes Saturday action

Governor Henry McMaster took several actions today to enhance the state’s response to COVID-19’s continued impact to South Carolina. He stopped short, however, of mandating “shelter-in-place.”

“Team South Carolina is constantly reviewing the COVID 19 situation, and all plans and contingencies to contain this virus remain on the table,” McMaster said in a release. “That includes “shelter-in-place,” a drastic action that other states with larger population centers have taken. It is my hope that this will not be necessary here, and I believe it to be much less likely, as long as South Carolinians follow official instructions and take recommended precautions now.”

McMasters actions Saturday include:

– Asking construction contractors and others in the skilled trade industry to donate whatever personal protective equipment they can spare to healthcare professionals and state agencies in the greatest need, including respirator masks commonly used in construction settings. To make donations, contact Mary Louise Resch of Habitat for Humanity for logistical coordination via email at mlresch@habitatsc.org.

– Issuing Executive Order 2020-12, which directs the Department of Revenue to waive additional regulations in order to allow restaurants to include sealed containers of beer and wine for curbside pickup or “to-go” orders only. This waiver does not authorize or apply to open containers or delivery services.

– Directing the Department of Revenue to conform the state’s income tax deadline to July 15, which is the new federal income tax deadline. Other state taxes will remain delayed until June 1, as previously ordered.

Beaufort Memorial cancels all elective surgeries

Beaufort Memorial Hospital (BMH) has canceled all non-urgent, elective surgeries at its main hospital and outpatient surgery center.

The decision was made to protect patients and staff from unnecessary exposure and risk, while conserving beds, supplies and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to care for patients in the hospital. The hospital will continue to provide surgical services to both urgent and emergent patients, including those deemed medically necessary for a patient’s health and long-term well being.

“We have been working closely with our surgeons and surgical teams to develop a plan that both protects patients and staff and ensures that people who need care now receive it,” BMH President and CEO Russell Baxley said in a release.

Hilton Head Island closes beaches

The Town of Hilton Head Island’s public beaches will be closed until further notice. All of the town’s public beach parking areas, to include restrooms and other public facilities, were closed effective Saturday. According to the town’s release, this condition will remain in effect for a period of 60 days or unless rescinded sooner, based upon appropriate conditions.