By Mike McCombs
As South Carolina had its third day in the past week with more than 1,000 new cases of the novel coronavirus COVID-19 on Monday, state officials raised the possibility that the state’s K-12 students may not be able to return to in-person education in the fall.
“If it continues on the same path we’re on right now it’s going to be extremely difficult for us to be able to go back face-to-face,” S.C. Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman said at a press conference. “Hopefully we’ll see a change and things will start decreasing.”
Spearman said safety would no t be sacrificed in order to meet the goal of in-person instruction for the state’s students.
“Certainly, if the virus is running rampant, we’re not going to sacrifice the safety of our students and our teachers just to say ‘we’re going back to school,’” Spearman saidas the 13-member AccelerateEd task force released its report on how best to re-open the state’s K-12 schools. “We’re going to do it safely.”
The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) on Monday announced 1,002 new confirmed cases of coronavirus and 6 additional confirmed deaths. There were 28 new cases in Beaufort County.
As of Monday, there are 731 hospital beds occupied by patients who have either tested positive or are under investigation for COVID-19.
Frustration setting in?
On Thursday, June 18, State Epidemiologist Dr. Linda Bell on Thursday issued a terse statement urging South Carolinians to continue to take public health precautions amid concerns over the recent rise in confirmed COVID-19 cases.
“Every one of us has a role to play in stopping COVID-19. This virus does not spread on its own. Its spread around our state by infected people who carry it wherever they go – their work, the supermarket, the post office, a friend’s house. By not following public health precautions, many are putting all at risk,” Bell said in her statement.”
“It is essential that each of us, every day, wear a mask in public and stay physically distanced from others.”
“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. 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.”
“There is no vaccine for COVID-19. There are only individual behaviors and actions we must all maintain that help stop its spread.”
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.”
“Historically, South Carolinans 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.”
Suffer the young people
On Friday, June 19, DHEC pointed out that young people, South Carolinians younger than 30, were increasingly testing positive for the virus.
Since April 4, DHEC data shows that there has been a 413.9 percent increase in newly reported COVID-19 cases among the 21-30 age group, and a 966.1 percent increase in newly reported COVID-19 cases among the 11-20 age group.
“The increases that we’re seeing serve as a warning that young adults and youth are not immune to COVID-19,” DHEC physician consultant Dr. Brannon Traxler said “They also tell us that younger South Carolinians are not taking social distancing seriously.”
Another dubious record
On Saturday, June 20, the state recorded a record with 1,157 confirmed new cases of COVID-19.
Last month, the original goal of testing 110,000 residents, roughly two percent of the state’s population, was exceeded for May. On Monday, that goal was increased to 140,000 for June, July and August and 165,000 for the rest of 2020.
The positive test rate for the state was 12.6 percent on Monday. Overall, since testing began, it’s 10.2 percent.
On Wednesday, June 17, Beaufort County reported its 15th death as a result of the virus. The victim, who died Saturday, June 13, according to the Beaufort County Coroner’s Office, was an elderly woman who lived in a Beaufort County nursing home.