Coronavirus cases continue to rise in South Carolina

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — New cases of the coronavirus in South Carolina continue to increase as state health officials reported 918 more as of Saturday.

The Department of Health and Environmental Control said almost 15% of the those new cases were in Richland County as college students return to the University of South Carolina and other campuses. DHEC also confirmed 32 new deaths related to the virus.

According to data from the Associated Press, the rolling average of daily new cases over the past two weeks has increased by about 33%.

Since March, the state has recorded more than 122,000 cases of COVID-19 and at least 2,738 deaths.

Richland County led the state with the most new cases — 134 as of Saturday, The State reported. Neighboring Lexington County had 61 new confirmed cases, while Spartanburg reported 92 new cases.

Ahead of the Labor Day weekend, health experts have warned of a possible spike in cases as residents take vacations to crowded beaches and students return to schools.

The number of active COVID 19 cases on University of South Carolina’s campus has risen to 1,443, the school announced Friday. When classes for the fall semester began a little more than two weeks ago on Aug. 20, the university had 46 active cases. With a student population of roughly 35,000, that means at least one in every 25 students currently has the virus.

“Although our total number of positive cases remains high, this week we actually saw signs of a reduced campus case load and positivity rate,” university President Bob Caslen said. “Following the holiday weekend, however, we anticipate an uptick in cases on campus in line with the anticipated national trend.”

Caslen said the university has leased 132 rooms from a local hotel for the next month to quarantine students who have been exposed to the novel coronavirus.

Caslen has also said the university’s high case counts can be attributed in part to the school’s aggressive testing, a policy he vowed to continue. He and other school officials have cited student behavior, especially at off-campus events, as one of the main reasons for the spread of the virus. He also said during a virtual town hall Wednesday he has no immediate plans to shut down campus.

State health officials have said that the virus’ progression has been slowing significantly in areas with face mask requirements and where residents are practicing social distancing.