For the first time in seven weeks, South Carolina’s 7-day average of newly identified cases dipped below 1,000 per day, a number fueled by the state’s fourth day in a rew with triple-digit results.
Testing is also at a 7-week low, while the weekly average of percent positives is shrinking as well.
As the state Department of Health and Environmental Control tallied the numbers, Gov. Henry McMaster visited a Kershaw County school district as he campaigned for universal five-day classroom learning.
“The entire state is focused on getting these kids back to school,” Gov. Henry McMaster said in the Wateree Elementary library Thursday. He also dropped in Wednesday at the Anderson Institute of Technology and Friday will visit Johnsonville Middle School.
“This is something that we can manage if we’re smart, but one thing that we must not lose our grip on is educating these children because if they’re out of school for too long, they’ll never catch up and we’ll lose a whole generation,” McMaster said.
The nearly 10,000-student Kershaw County School District is one of 18 statewide with a full-week classroom option from the start of the year.
“If we can’t educate these children, we as a state will suffer,” McMaster said.
State lawmakers in May created a $155 million coronavirus response account using existing reserves, giving McMaster authorization to use it as he saw fit. To date, more than $18 million has been expended, including the bulk purchase of personal protective gear.
“This district is doing exactly what it’s supposed to be doing, and this is an instance where the state government is really helping,” McMaster said. “We told all the superintendents, ‘if you need protective equipment than we will provide it at no cost.’”
Officials said the 11 remaining districts did not ask for state assistance in purchasing PPE.
There was a bipartisan show of support for Kershaw’s back-to-school efforts, with Democratic state Sen. Vincent Sheheen and state Rep. Laurie Funderburk, both of Camden, joining McMaster on Thursday.
“The coronavirus, it really leaves us with no good choices. We can either send the kids to school and they risk becoming infected along with our teachers or we keep them home and we will have a lifelong loss of learning that would affect this state for generations, and so we can only do the best we can do,” Sheheen said. “This virus is nonpartisan in who it infects and who it kills, and that means we have to be nonpartisan in working together to fight its effects.”
Number of new cases reported: 907
Total number of cases in S.C.: 103,051, plus 858 probable cases
Number of new deaths reported: 35
Total number of deaths in S.C.: 2,089, plus 97 probable deaths
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Number of hospitalized patients: 1,322
Percent of tests that were positive: 15.7 percent
Total number of tests in S.C.: 864,186
Which areas are hardest hit?
Richland County led the state with 91 new cases Thursday, while Charleston and Spartanburg counties each logged 76.
What’s happening in the tri-county region?
In addition to the 76 new cases in Charleston County, Berkeley and Dorchester reported 25 apiece.
One Dorchester and two Charleston residents’ deaths were confirmed on Thursday. Authorities are also determining whether a Berkeley resident whose death weas reported Thursday had COVID-19.
Of the 35 deaths confirmed on Thursday, nine were 35 to 64 years old and 26 were 65 or older.
Authorities are investigating to determine whether 11 more deaths were COVID-19 related.
DHEC reported that 1,322 COVID-19 patients were hospitalized as of Thursday. Of these, 201 were on ventilators and 323 were in intensive care.
What do experts say?
Officials continue to urge basic precautions to slow the spread of the coronavirus: social distancing, wearing a mask in public, avoiding group gatherings, regularly washing hands and staying home when sick.
Adam Benson contributed to this report.
Reach Sara Coello at 843-937-5705 and follow her on Twitter @smlcoello.