(The Center Square) – Roughly one-third of South Carolina’s 331 COVID-19 deaths have been nursing home residents, according to state health officials.
People in long-term care facilities fall into two main at-risk groups as they are elderly and have underlying medical conditions that weaken their immune systems.
The state reported 7,653 confirmed COVID-19 cases, as of Monday. Residents and staff of nursing homes account for 1,072 of those positive tests. There have been 107 resident deaths. The Department of Health and Environmental Control said it will begin testing this week on all 40,000 residents and staff in the state’s 194 nursing homes.
“DHEC prioritizes the identification of infections in congregate settings like nursing homes, assisted living facilities and extended care facilities because the spread of respiratory illness is common and the residents who live there are at high risk for developing complications or death,” the agency said in a statement.
The union that represents workers at the Veterans Affairs hospital in Columbia, meanwhile, said the facility is not doing enough to protect them
“Employees at the Columbia VA Health Care Center are reporting that they are receiving only one mask a week in some areas and one a day in patient care areas,” the American Federation of Government Employees said in a press release. “Outpatient nurses have been moved to inpatient care and are being mandated to work 12-hour shifts when they usually only work eight-hour shifts.”
The union also said hospital leadership is not allowing some employees to work remotely and have not conducted appropriate training for staff on how to stop the spread of the disease.
Gov. Henry McMaster announced restaurants can resume indoor dining this week, although with social distancing requirements in place. Operations must be limited to 50 percent occupancy and tables have to be at least 6 feet apart.
“This doesn’t mean that everyone has to open. This means that those who want to can open,” McMaster said at a news conference. “They’ll have to make their own decisions based on their experience in their restaurant in the past.”
Restaurants were allowed to resume outdoor dining last week, although media reports indicate many chose not to and others closed again out of concern for their staff after large crowds gathered.
Restaurants nationwide are reporting difficulty in ordering meat as many processing plants have closed because the spread of coronavirus among workers.
McMaster said a decision on when salons, barbershops, gyms and other “close physical contact” businesses can reopen will be made soon.