The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) is investigating additional cases of the COVID-19 novel coronavirus. As of Sunday afternoon, four presumptive positive cases were identified after testing for COVID-19 was completed at DHEC’s Public Health Laboratory. These are in addition to the two presumptive positive cases the agency announced on March 6. That brings the total number of presumptive positive cases to six.
Two of these four new cases are direct contacts (meaning close face-to-face contact) with the Camden elderly woman who was announced as a presumptive positive on March 6. One of these two individuals is a woman who has hospitalized for reasons unrelated to COVID-19 and is isolated at this time. The other individual, an elderly man, was temporarily admitted to a healthcare facility, was discharged, and is currently isolated at home.
The third new case is a woman from Camden with no known connection, at this time, to the other presumptive positive cases from Camden. She was evaluated at a healthcare facility, was not hospitalized and is currently isolated at home.
The fourth new case is man from Spartanburg County with no known connection, at this time, to any of the other presumptive positive cases. He is not hospitalized and is currently isolated at home. He had recently traveled to Italy.
The elderly female from Camden was transferred to a health care facility in the Midlands on March 6 to receive a higher level of care. She remains isolated.
The woman from Charleston County is symptom-free and continuing to self-monitor.
“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 (CDC). It takes 24-48 hours for the CDC to confirm samples after they’re received.
“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,” said Dr. Linda Bell, State Epidemiologist. “We are working with the CDC and state and local officials to limit community spread while continuing with our protocol for identifying travel-related cases in the state.”
In line with CDC guidance, the department does not recommend closing schools or canceling public events at this time. DHEC will monitor 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. That updated information is publicly available at scdhec.gov/COVID-19. DHEC continues to be in communication with state agencies and community partners.
As of this afternoon, DHEC has tested a total of 18 individuals for COVID-19, which includes the six presumptive positives. The remaining tests are negative. DHEC will update the public as soon as the confirmatory test results from the CDC are available, and as other new information is known.
“We understand residents will have concerns about this new indication of community spread, however, I urge the public to remain calm and follow recommendations to prevent the spread of illness. Public health events like this one are not new to South Carolina,” Bell said. “As a state, we have responded to Zika, the H1N1 influenza pandemic, SARS, and others – including seasonal flu outbreaks, and our medical consultants conduct more than 700 disease investigations each year for a variety of illnesses. We have trained, prepared, and put systems in place to ensure that we are prepared and ready to respond to this and other events.”
At this time, precautions are recommended to maintain daily routines of protecting against illness by practicing good hygiene, washing your hands, covering your cough. Individuals with signs of illness should stay home from school and work and not attend public gatherings.
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. The Care Line hours are extend to 9 p.m. tonight. 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.