Laurens County set a new record for the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in a single day on Tuesday as Whitten Center in Clinton became a hot spot for the novel coronavirus.
The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) reported 49 newly confirmed cases in Laurens County. Those cases were among 1,741 confirmed cases – a statewide high – with two more probable cases. Seventeen people were reported dead of COVID-19 and two others were listed as probable. The statewide totals now sit at 36,297 confirmed cases and 735 deaths.
A fifth death due to the novel coronavirus from Laurens County was also reported by DHEC over the past week. The deceased was a middle-aged male.
On Monday, the state Department of Disabilities and Special Needs announced that 83 of Whitten Center’s consumers and staff members – about 14% of the campus population – have tested positive for COVID-19. Whitten Center is a 24-hour residential care facility for the mentally and physically disabled. The facility is currently under quarantine.
“The state and the country are experiencing a surge in COVID-19 cases, SCDDSN Deputy Director Pat Maley said in a statement Monday. “Whitten has been very fortunate to have only a few COVID-19 infections until recently. However, the contagious COVID-19 virus has infected 36 consumers and 47 staff, which represents about 14% of the campus’s total consumers and staff. DDSN’s Pee Dee Regional Center in Florence experienced a similar surge in infections in April, which has been reduced to zero infections last week. Whitten is using the same fundamental infection control protocols to control its current surge in cases.
“The Whitten staff has responded to cover shifts for those staff testing positive for COVID-19. DDSN will be surging resources from other Regional Centers as needed. There is no shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE). As the front-line of defense for COVID-19 during this national emergency, Whitten healthcare workers will continue to care for some of State’s most vulnerable citizens despite the current surge in cases. I ask you to recognize Whitten staff as the heroes they are, as well as thank the continued support Whitten has received from families and the public during this unique time.”
South Carolina is second in the nation behind Arizona in the increase in number of cases in the nation and among 10 states that saw its total case numbers double during the month of June.
The statewide statistics released Tuesday by DHEC included 9,174 non-antibody tests with a 19% positive infection rate.
State officials urged Independence Day celebrants this coming weekend to stay away from public beaches, asking people to enjoy “home-based festivities” or enjoy fireworks displays from their vehicles.
“The virus is rapidly spreading across the state,” DHEC Public Health Director Dr. Joan Duwve said Tuesday in a news release. “We’ve all given so much for so long, and we all want to be at our beautiful beaches, at our parks, our friends’ houses, our block parties and community events but I’m asking all of us to stay vigilant in the fight against this deadly virus. While we celebrate our country’s birthday, please help your communities, especially those who are at increased risk of severe illness, hospitalization, and death. If we all pledge to wear our face masks, stay six feet apart, and wash our hands often, together we will reduce the spread of COVID-19 and save lives.”