SC tops 1,500 new coronavirus cases Saturday for new record

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — The Department of Health and Environmental Control reported nearly 1,600 new cases of the coronavirus Saturday in South Carolina, surpassing the previous daily record of 1,290 set on Tuesday.

The state said the 1,599 new cases reported bring South Carolina's total cases to 31,850. The increase comes as the state reported 15 more deaths related to COVID-19, bringing the state's toll to 707, The State reported.

“This is a dang deadly disease,” Gov. Henry McMaster warned residents Friday. “You have to follow the rules and wear your mask.”

Should cases continue to surge, McMaster said the state is prepared to implement a plan to create new hospital beds. If necessary, he said he may require medical facilities to postpone elective procedures to ensure hospital beds are available.

The number of patients in hospital beds hit a record high Friday at 906. Hospitals in Lexington and Richland counties were at 88.2% and 77.9% capacity, respectively.

South Carolina has consistently seen record daily coronavirus case counts over the last three weeks, which could indicate that the virus’ activity is increasing dramatically. This week, DHEC has reported no less than 892 new cases every day, maxing at 1,599 Saturday. Last week, the state’s daily case counts fell between 577 and 1,157. The week before, DHEC reported between 434 and 802 cases daily.

The surge in daily case counts is a result of people not practicing safety precautions, including wearing masks and practicing social distancing, state health officials said.

“Quite frankly, it’s troubling that not enough people are taking this pandemic seriously,” state epidemiologist Linda Bell said Wednesday.

McMaster has said he will not issue a statewide order mandating the use of face masks, but a number of local officials have moved in that direction, including the cities of Columbia, Charleston and Greenville.