South Carolina Virus Outbreak

A sign in Myrtle Beach, S.C., on Thursday, June 18, 2020, asks people to maintain social distancing on the beach.

(The Center Square) – South Carolina broke two records over the weekend in its ongoing battle with coronavirus.

The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control reported a single-day record of 1,599 new COVID-19 cases Saturday, eclipsing the previous record of 1,290 new cases reported Tuesday. Another 1,366 new cases were reported Sunday.

A total of 954 hospital beds statewide were occupied Sunday by COVID-19 patients, the highest daily total yet. The previous one-day high was 908, reported Saturday. State health officials said hospital beds across South Carolina were at 71 percent of capacity, as of Sunday.

Gov. Henry McMaster said he may go back to restricting elective surgeries if more beds are needed for COVID-19 patients.

In total, 33,221 people in South Carolina have tested positive for the virus since mid-March, with 712 fatalities.

DHEC also said the daily percentage of positive tests last week ranged from 12 percent to 20 percent. The percentage ranged between 2 percent and 4 percent in May. On June 1, South Carolina had just shy of 12,000 cases and 494 deaths. Health officials project an additional 7,100 new cases this week.

While McMaster continues encouraging people to practice social distancing and wear face masks in public, he said it would be “impossible” to enforce a statewide rule requiring face masks.

“These mandates are, in the end, unenforceable," McMaster said as a recent news conference. "It’s not the right policy for government.”

McMaster did say, however, he has no problems with local municipalities enacting their own face-mask ordinances.

Some larger cities, such as Columbia, Charleston, Hilton Head and Greenville, have done so. In the state capital of Columbia, for example, not wearing a face mask is a civil infraction, rather than a criminal one, and the rule is being enforced by code enforcement officers rather than police.

Not wearing a mask carries a $25 fine, and businesses can be fined $100 if employees are not wearing masks. The requirement started Friday and will be in effect for 60 days.

In Myrtle Beach, grocery and other retail stores have been asked to require customers to wear masks, but no ordinance has been enacted. The popular tourist and vacation area new cases topped 200 for the first time Saturday, and dozens of counties in Ohio, Kentucky, Virginia and West Virginia have recently reported several new cases of coronavirus among people who recently visited Myrtle Beach and the surrounding area.