S.C. governor closes all schools, recommends large gatherings cancel as number of coronavirus cases rises

Updated: Mar. 16, 2020 at 10:55 AM EDT
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WEST COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Gov. Henry McMaster has closed all schools across the state through the end of March, beginning Monday, March 16.

This includes pre-k through grade 12, universities, colleges and technical colleges.

Public schools will continue lessons through online learning, but State Superintendent Molly Spearman has asked the federal government to cancel the statewide testing that usually happens in the spring.

Watch full news conference (story continues below):

Transportation officials are working on providing school buses with hardware to deliver WiFi to remote areas so children can continue learning.

Grab-and-go meals will be available for students across the state during the closure. Information for students will be available soon on each school’s website, officials said.

Teachers are allowed to go back into their classrooms to gather supplies, however, they need to contact their superintendent for more details.

Officials said all teachers and school staff will receive pay throughout the closure.

Additionally, the governor asked that public gatherings -- indoor and outdoor -- be limited to 100 people or less. That, however, does not include state or government gatherings or businesses.

During Sunday’s news conference, the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) said it’s investigating nine new cases of the coronavirus in the state.

That brings the total number of positive COVID-19 cases to 28. To date, 263 tests have been performed.

Greenville County has one case, Anderson County has two cases, Horry County has three cases, and Kershaw County has three new cases.

One of the Kershaw County cases is an employee at a childcare facility. Officials say that person was not ill while working. They do not think children and other staff members at risk of exposure.

DHEC has requested that the federal government release S.C. allocation of medical supplies from the strategic national stockpile, such as respirators, masks and gowns.

Elections have been postponed and rescheduled until after May 1.

This story will be updated with more information.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said the coronavirus is spread mainly from person-to-person by those in close contact, or through coughing and sneezing by someone who’s infected.

Symptoms of coronavirus can show up between two and 14 days of exposure, health officials say. Symptoms include fever, cough and shortness of breath.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. But some severe cases can lead to death.

Those who are at the highest risk of catching COVID-19 are the young, the elderly and those who are already being treated for chronic medical diseases.

Young people who contract the virus are not likely to have a serious case, research shows.

Doctors say there is not currently a treatment or vaccine for COVID-19, but over-the-counter medications, like cold and cough medicines, can help treat symptoms of the virus.

The mortality rate for people with the virus has been widely reported around 2 to 3%, but health experts note the actual percentage is not that high, as not all cases are diagnosed or reported.

The rate is higher than the flu, which kills on average about 0.1% of people who get it, based on a 10-year average of data from the CDC.

Anyone with concerns about their health, or who believes they are showing symptoms such as fever, cough, or shortness of breath, should call their health care provider.

People with general questions about coronavirus should call the DHEC Care Line at 855-472-3432. The line is open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. every day. Callers are urged to be patient as call volumes are high.

People without a doctor can take advantage of free online screening from Prisma Health and the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC).

MUSC has an online platform to aid with coronavirus diagnosis and care. Go to musc.care and access the COVID-19 platform. The service is free with code: COVID19.

Prisma Health also recently launched a free virtual visit, which allows patients to video conference with a doctor instead of coming into a facility. The goal is to keep patients who don’t need to be treated at a hospital at home. Go to prismahealth.org/virtual-visit and use promo code COVID19 for a free virtual visit.

For more information on COVID-19, click or tap here to visit the CDC’s website.

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