SC Gov. Henry McMaster asks colleges to complete semester online as 21 more COVID-19 cases reported

S.C. Gov. Henry McMaster will be joined by state public health officials at 4:30 p.m. from the South Carolina Emergency Operations Center in West Columbia. (Source: WIS)

WEST COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - South Carolina’s governor announced a new executive order Thursday as cases of the novel coronavirus, or COVID-19, continue to increase in the state.

Gov. Henry McMaster and public health officials from the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control spoke Thursday from the state’s Emergency Operations Center in West Columbia.

McMaster has called for all public colleges and universities in the state to determine which employees are needed to ensure classes can continue online for the rest of the semester.

Around the same time as the news conference, the University of South Carolina confirmed its students will finish the semester through virtual learning and not in-person classes.

UofSC also postponed graduation.

The governor’s latest executive order also cut some red tape related to unemployment benefit, hoping to speed those up for people in need. It also mandates non-essential state employees, as decided by their supervisor, stay home.

DHEC announced 21 new cases Thursday across 17 counties. Here is the breakdown by county:

Kershaw: 29
Richland: 8
Beaufort: 7
Greenville: 7
Horry: 6
Charleston: 5
Lexington: 5
Anderson: 3
Lancaster: 3
Abbeville: 1
Calhoun: 1
Dorchester: 1
Fairfield: 1
Lee: 1
Saluda: 1
Spartanburg: 1
York: 1

There is a patient with COVID-19 at a hospital in Sumter, Prisma Health confirmed, even though DHEC has not reported a case in that county.

To clarify, DHEC said the cases are reported based on where the patients live -- not where they are receiving treatment.

DHEC said its lab has conducted more than 900 tests at this point.

Dr. Linda Bell, the state epidemiologist with DHEC, said people should not be concerned about shopping in public settings like grocery stores. She said the agency has gotten many questions about this -- but brief contact in public settings is not considered a high risk exposure for everyone.

She also urged people to stay calm as more cases are reported, because the numbers will keep going up.

“Don’t overreact as cases increase,” she said.

The governor also wanted to ensure the public will be safe during this outbreak. Part of his most recent executive order directs law enforcement to “vigorously enforce laws to prevent looting, robbery, thefts and acts of violence during this emergency.”

McMaster also pointed out resource officers from schools and other government buildings are now available to help keep public safe.