State epidemiologist more concerned about COVID-19 in SC than ever before


COLUMBIA, S.C. (WSAV) – South Carolina officials are once again calling on residents to take some of the most basic precautions to stop the spread of COVID-19: wearing a mask and practicing social distancing.

“Today I am more concerned about COVID-19 in South Carolina than I have ever been before,” State Epidemiologist Dr. Linda Bell said in a press conference Wednesday.

On behalf of the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC), she announced the state’s total number of cases has surpassed 15,700 and a total of 575 people have died from the virus.

“For the past two weeks, we’ve seen some of our highest daily numbers since the pandemic began and there have also been recent increases in our percent positive, which tells us that more people than we would hope for who are being tested are sick,” Bell explained.

Gov. Henry McMaster agreed that it’s on individuals to put on masks and stay six feet apart. He said it has been “disappointing” to see large crowds and reminded residents that the virus can result in death.

“Be smart,” McMaster said. “There’s a lot of stupid floating around there.”

As for a correlation between high numbers and Memorial Day weekend, Bell said: “These findings are not expected.”

“There is that concern about large community gatherings and I think that the data reflects that,” she added.

As for the concern of COVID-19 spread due to recent protests, Bell explained: “There are lots of activities going on, not only the protests but behaviors in lots of communities where people are not paying attention to social distancing.”

Testing has also increased statewide, including that of asymptomatic persons, which, of course, contributes to the increase in cases. DHEC is still working towards its goal of testing 2 percent of the state’s population each month.

Reporters asked the governor if he would consider making masks mandatory or would revisit shutting down businesses in the state.

“There are some limits to what we can do and what we can enforce,” he said of a mask mandate.

“Shutting down is not the answer,” he added. “When we shut down we are shutting down people’s livelihoods.”

The governor said plans for reopening South Carolina’s economy continue. Bowling alleys and some other businesses have not been given the green light to open again.

“We hope to be able to make some good decisions very soon,” McMaster said.

He also released his recommendations to the South Carolina General Assembly for how the state’s share of federal CARES Act funds should be invested.

Among McMaster’s specific recommendations is, at a minimum, a $500 million investment in the state’s Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund, which he said has been depleted due to the pandemic’s economic impact on the state.

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