4 New Presumptive Cases of COVID-19 in S.C. - DHEC: Community Spread in Camden

Mar 7, 2020

Saturday (March 7, 2020) Gov. Henry McMaster and state health officials hold briefing on presumptive coronavirus cases in South Carolina
Credit Thelisha Eaddy/ SC Public Radio

Sunday, DHEC officials announced four additional presumptive positive cases of coronavirus in South Carolina, bringing the state's total to six.

Two of the four new cases are direct contacts (close face-to-face) with the elderly Camden woman whose case was announced as a presumptive positive on March 6. One, a woman who was hospitalized for reasons unrelated to COVID-19, the other, an elderly man temporarily admitted to a healthcare facility and discharged. Officials said he is currently isolated at home.

The third new case announced Sunday is of another woman from Camden with no known connection, at this time, to the other presumptive positive cases in that area. Officials said she was evaluated at a healthcare facility, not hospitalized, and is currently isolated at home.

“We now have evidence of community spread that’s likely to be causing these initial cases in Camden in Kershaw County and the risk of spread to other communities is possible, as seen in other states across the country,” said Dr. Linda Bell, State Epidemiologist. “We are working with the CDC and state and local officials to limit community spread while continuing with our protocol for identifying travel-related cases in the state.”

The fourth new case is a man from Spartanburg County with no known connection. Bell said the man recently traveled to Italy. He is not hospitalized and is currently isolated at home.

--PREVIOUS REPORT--

Investigations Continue in Presumed COVID-19 Cases. Gov. McMaster: No Reason for Alarm. 

COLUMBIA, S.C (March 7, 2020)

Saturday, state health officials said investigations of two presumed cases of coronavirus in the state are ongoing and that there is no reason for alarm. The team also announced free resources and a new website to help answer questions and limit any potential spread of the deadly virus.

The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) said a woman in her thirties in Charleston County traveled to France and Italy. She returned by flight through Charleston over a week ago. The agency said that patient did not require hospitalization and was self-isolated at home.

David Cole, President of the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) confirmed the woman is a staff member there. When asked about her condition he said she “actually is doing quite well,” adding she had mild systems for 24 to 36 hours.

State Epidemiologist Dr. Linda Bell said the Charleston patient was first reported to the state a few days after the onset of her illness which is believed to be around February 28. According to Bell:

March 3:   patient first sought care

March 5:   patient was reported to health department

March 5:   specimen was collected for testing

March 6:   test results were reported

DHEC said it is working with the Charleston County woman to determine any possible exposure during her travel home.

“We are working with her on her flight schedule and communicating that to the CDC,” Rick Toomey, Director of DHEC said.

That information, he said, will allow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to implement the protocols in looking at individuals that may be at risk.

The second presumed case is of a woman in her eighties in Kershaw County. Unlike some cases of older patients with the disease in other parts of the country, Dr. Bell said, the Kershaw country woman was not in a nursing home prior to becoming ill. She said they conduct investigations around every person who is identified.

“The close contacts are being investigated and appropriate measures are being taken to evaluate them, should they develop symptoms or illness.”

The epidemiologist said this case has a more prolonged course of illness. The woman was admitted to the

* Data include both confirmed and presumptive positive cases of COVID-19 reported to CDC or tested at CDC since January 21, 2020, with the exception of testing results for persons repatriated to the United States from Wuhan, China and Japan. State and local public health departments are now testing and publicly reporting their cases. In the event of a discrepancy between CDC cases and cases reported by state and local public health officials, data reported by states should be considered the most up to date.
Credit CDC.gov

hospital sometime in February (an exact date, was not given) for evaluation of an unknown illness.

“She was being evaluated over the course of several days for other potential causes, until they decided that those had been ruled out,” Bell said. The woman was then tested for COVID 19. Bell said that test was submitted to DHEC’s lab March 5.

Officials said they don’t have a history that the Kershaw County woman traveled outside of the United States or outside of South Carolina. When asked if this could be a case of community spread, and if there were more South Carolina cases, Bell reiterated investigations are ongoing.

“Community spread is one possibility of her source, if she has no history of travel, but we are still investigating to see if she had contact with someone who did potentially travel.”

Despite the number of unknowns surrounding these two presumed cases, Gov. McMaster said there was no reason for alarm.

“We ask people to go about your daily lives with the understanding that there is a new virus out there, but there are ways to protect yourself from it,” he said.

He added it was too early to consider issuing a state of emergency order.

“This is going precisely as we believed it would. All the protocols, the procedure, the people are activated.”

The Governor did say he spoke with Vice President Pence and has been in contact with U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar and said he was told “whatever is necessary will be done.”

There will soon be better access to COVID-19 testing in the state. According to MUSC President David Cole, MUSC has been working with state partners to develop local testing with “rapid turnaround time.” He said they anticipate those efforts becoming available soon.

Cole also announced MUSC’s free urgent virtual care platform for anyone in the state experiencing mild to moderate flu-like symptoms. He said people should go to www.musc.care and use the code COVD19.

DHEC has also created a dedicated website to help answer question at http://www.scdhec.gov/covid19

As of Friday, DHEC had tested a total of 10 individuals for COVID-19, including the two presumptive positives today. The remaining tests are negative. DHEC has the ability to test 80 to 100 patients per day.

For general questions about COVID-19 residents should visit the DHEC website at scdhec.gov/COVID19 or the CDC website here.

For residents concerned about their own personal health or are showing symptoms such as fever, cough or shortness of breath, please call your personal doctor or healthcare provider. DHEC has launched its Care Line. If residents have general questions about COVID-19, the DHEC Care Line is here to help. Call 1-855-472-3432. Staff are answering calls from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Call volume has been high. Callers are urged to be patient if they receive a busy signal and try their call at a later time.

WATCH: March 7 Update

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PREVIOUS REPORT

Two women in South Carolina may have contracted the new strain of coronavirus, according to the state health department. Late Friday, DHEC announced it was investigating two cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus. The agency said the two presumptive cases were not linked. One case is of an elderly woman in Kershaw County who has been hospitalized and is in isolation. The second patient is an adult female from Charleston County who recently traveled to France and Italy. DHEC said that patient did not require hospitalization and is self-isolated at home.

in a statement Kershaw County reminded residents to follow CDC and DHEC for updates and guidance.

"Kershaw County is closely monitoring this situation, and is following appropriate protocols in its management of Public Safety. Citizens are urged to go to the following resources to find out any current updates on the virus in SC, as well as approved and effective ways to combat against it."

According to the Post and Courier Newspaper, the patient in Charleston County is a staff member at the Medical University of South Carolina. 

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that cause respiratory infections ranging from the common cold to more serious diseases such as pneumonia. DHEC is working with CDC to identify all those who might have been in contact with these individuals. Agency said these people will be monitored for fever and respiratory symptoms.

"We understand that residents have concerns about how the virus may impact South Carolinians," said Dr. Linda Bell, state epidemiologist.

With regards to the two presumptive cases, the samples submitted tested positive at DHEC’s Public Health Laboratory. The agency said these results are required to be confirmed by the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) laboratory and are in the process of being submitted for this confirmatory testing. DHEC said test results from the CDC typically takes 24 to 48 hours after the specimens are received.

As of Friday, DHEC had tested a total of 10 individuals for COVID-19, including the two presumptive positives today. The remaining tests are negative. DHEC has the ability to test 80 to 100 patients per day.