South Carolina lieutenant governor returns after COVID-19

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — South Carolina Lt. Gov. Pamela Evette has returned to public life after being diagnosed with COVID-19 earlier this month.

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Evette came to the South Carolina House chambers on Tuesday, meeting with members, giving hugs telling the story of how she recovered from the virus over and over again. She was wearing a mask.

Evette, 53, had a sore throat and a headache on Sept. 10 and sought out a coronavirus test that came back positive a day later. Her family and members of her security detail isolated themselves also.

Health officials said they can't pinpoint where Evette got the virus, but they did inform anyone who had close contact with her, including an appearance to thank workers at a suicide prevention hotline in Greenville on Sept. 8.

House Speaker Jay Lucas welcomed Evette back to the House chamber. The Hartsville Republican joked from his location presiding over the House on the other side of the room “if it's OK with you, I'll just wave.”

Also on Tuesday, state officials announced a Georgia hospital system failed to report the results of 15,000 coronavirus tests on South Carolina residents from May to September.

The tests from Augusta University Healthcare included 2,000 positive results and the delay meant South Carolina officials could not trace contacts for those people to try and stop further spread of the disease.

“We’re aware of out-of-state labs who may not know about South Carolina’s COVID-19 reporting requirements. We are continuing our outreach to private labs that perform testing of South Carolina residents’ specimens to ensure the information is relayed to us not just by health care providers but also directly from the labs performing the tests," said Dr. Michael Kacka, Chief Medical Officer for the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control.

Evette is one of at least 137,400 people in South Carolina to get COVID-19,according to DHEC.

The state has reported 3,067 deaths since the pandemic began in March.

South Carolina's cases continue to slowly decline for the most part. The seven-day average of new cases is around 775, some of the lowest numbers since mid-June. The percentage of positive tests is also continuing a regular decline.

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Follow Jeffrey Collins on Twitter at https://twitter.com/JSCollinsAP.

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Follow AP coverage of the virus outbreak at https://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak.