Story at a glance

  • South Carolina is one of the states seeing an increase in new coronavirus cases.
  • Gov. Henry McMaster led an early reopening.

In the days and weeks following Memorial Day and protests sparked by George Floyd’s death, multiple states have seen spikes in coronavirus cases and hospitalizations — many of which aren’t attributable to more testing. 

Among those states is South Carolina, where Gov. Henry McMaster (R) opted to begin lifting lockdown restrictions in early May, provided residents continue to social distance and practice other Centers for Disease Control and Prevention protocol. 

Recent statistics, however, suggest that the state isn’t done fighting the coronavirus; state health department data shows a steady increase in case numbers, starting at the end of May and steadily climbing in early June. 


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The state now has 15,228 active cases of the coronavirus. South Carolina reported 434 new cases of the virus as of June 9, and 540 on June 8. 

 

 

Some of the more highly affected counties include Greenville and Spartanburg, which border Northern Carolina, Lexington and Richland counties in the center of the state, and Horry and Charleston counties along the eastern shore. 

While some governors have attributed the rise in cases to expansions in testing, public health experts note a disproportionate amount of cases relative to tests. 

South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) physician Lucy Brannon Traxler told the Post & Courier that the percentage of people testing positive is trending upward.

“This means more people are testing positive than we would hope for compared to how many people we are testing,” she said.

On Tuesday, the agency released a joint statement with the South Carolina Hospital Association, South Carolina Medical Association and South Carolina Office of Rural Health to encourage residents to continue practicing social distancing and to wear masks while in public.


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“There is rapidly growing medical evidence that the use of face masks along with social distancing can greatly reduce the transmission of the COVID-19 virus in public spaces and places where people at higher risk of severe illness and death from this virus are likely to be present,” the statement read. “We must all commit to wearing face masks in public spaces — if we all wear them, we’ll all be protected.”

Demographically, the South Carolina counties impacted the most by the virus are also some of the most populated. Horry County is home to Myrtle Beach, a popular vacation spot for East Coast residents, that saw light crowds flock to the coast to celebrate Memorial Day. 

Greenville County, which boasts the highest estimated population count of 506,837 per 2017 data, has turned into a coronavirus hot spot. The DHEC found that 30 percent of recent cases reported out of Greenville are among people identifying as Hispanic, per The Post & Courier

With census data recording only 9.3 percent of Greenville County as Hispanic or Latino, South Carolina’s data coincides with other evidence that communities of color are adversely impacted by the virus. Moreover, on a Monday phone call with governors, Deborah Birx of the White House coronavirus task force cited data showing high levels of community spread in urban Hispanic neighborhoods.

Similarly, black people living in South Carolina make up 40 percent of reported coronavirus cases and 48 percent of fatalities, according to DHEC data, despite only making up 27.1 percent of the state’s population. 

By comparison, the Hispanic population of South Carolina composes 14 percent of all coronavirus cases, and 2 percent of reported deaths. Only 5.8 percent of South Carolina’s population identifies as Hispanic or Latino. 


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Published on Jun 10, 2020