COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - State health officials said with cases in neighboring states, it is likely there will be a confirmed case of COVID-19, also known as the novel coronavirus, in South Carolina in the future.
On Thursday morning, the Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) gave lawmakers on the Senate Medical Affairs Committee an update on the status of the disease in the state.
As of Thursday morning, there are no confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the Palmetto State.
“DHEC is actively engaged with the issue and our ongoing goal remains prevention, monitoring, and education,” SCDHEC Director Rick Toomey said.
According to DHEC, as of Wednesday afternoon, they were monitoring 13 people without symptoms. They have tested five people for the coronavirus. All five tests have come back negative.
During Thursday’s meeting, Sen. Harvey Peeler, R-Cherokee County, asked DHEC officials about the state agency’s preparedness.
“Can I go back and tell my constituents we are prepared?” he asked.
Dr. Linda Bell, the State Epidemiologist, replied: “We can tell our residents in South Carolina that we have been preparing for this for a long time.”
Bell said with confirmed cases in surrounding states like North Carolina and Georgia, there will likely be a confirmed case in the Palmetto State in the future.
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“It is not unexpected,” Bell said. “We are likely to identify a case or more cases in South Carolina. That does not mean we have to switch to panic mode -- because a single case in a state does not present a risk to the entire population.”
DHEC said they will continue to keep updating their testing and monitoring numbers weekly.
“We feel that actionable information about the number of people being monitored by week is what is helpful for the population to understand what is going on in South Carolina,” Bell said.
Officials assured lawmakers that if a case is confirmed in South Carolina they will let the public know immediately.
Anyone with questions about COVID-19 can call the DHEC hotline: 855-472-3432. They said staffers are answering calls from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekdays.