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Close-contact biz reopen; county numbers stay steady

At least one Laurens County YMCA member could hardly wait to get back to the gym.

“Our first member was waiting at the door Monday at 4:48 a.m.,” said Brian Harlan, CEO of the Laurens County Y.

The local Y was among “close contact” businesses allowed to reopen across the state as Gov. Henry McMaster continued to loosen restrictions in an effort to “reopen” South Carolina businesses and industry in the face of COVID-19.

“We’re excited that we were able to open,” Harlan said. “We did follow the rules and guidelines set forth by the governor as well as the (Center for Diesease Control) and our local officials as well.”

As more businesses continued to open across the state this week, the number of COVID-19 cases grew by 137 confirmed cases Tuesday, bringing the total statewide number to over 9,000 as confirmed by the state’s Department of Health and Environmental Control. Eight additional deaths were reported due to the novel coronavirus, bringing that statewide total to 399.

No additional confirmed cases were reported from Laurens County Tuesday. The county total held firm for the third straight day at 57 after seven additional cases were reported here Friday.

The total of seven was the most newly confirmed cases  was the most since seven were confirmed on April 26.

DHEC also announced that free COVID-19 testing is to be available through Prisma Health Thursday from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. at E.B. Morse Elementary School in Laurens. Prisma released a statement Tuesday that indicated the testing could be postponed in the case of inclement weather.

The mobile testing sites, which include other venues throughout the Lakelands over the next week, are part of an effort by health officials to increase testing across the state.

DHEC plans to nearly double the amount of testing by the end of this month, hoping to have about 2% of the state’s population tested each month. So far, DHEC labs have conducted about 60,000 of the 110,000 tests DHEC plans to finish during May. Through Monday, 135,063 tests were completed.

The agency has also enlarged its staff of contact tracers, a strategy deemed essential by experts in containing the virus, from 20 to 380 with plans to hire 1,400 more.

With increased business openings, experts also are concerned with a second wave of the virus after the state successfully “flattened the curve” this month.

Harland said his staff is doing everything required to make sure that doesn’t happen at YMCA facilities in Laurens and the Lakelands.

He said the Laurens Y had about 41% of their average check-ins on Monday, higher than the statewide average of 24-29% other YMCA leaders reported. Phase One of the Y’s reopening included some limitations for facility usage.

“We have strategically placed our equipment for social distancing,” he said. “We have monitors and cleaners in each room that we have equipment. … Overall, we had a good day on Monday. We hope to announce some Phase Two openings soon, but we want to see how things go first.”

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