AP NEWS

Virus prompts S. Carolina gov to close schools in 2 counties

March 13, 2020 GMT
1 of 2
Medical University of South Carolina healthcare providers dress in protective suiting as they get ready to see patients by the hospital's drive-through tent for patients who are being tested for the COVID-19 coronavirus at the Citadel Mall parking lot Friday, March 13, 2020, in Charleston, S.C. The vast majority of people recover from the new coronavirus. According to the World Health Organization, most people recover in about two to six weeks, depending on the severity of the illness. (AP Photo/Mic Smith)
1 of 2
Medical University of South Carolina healthcare providers dress in protective suiting as they get ready to see patients by the hospital's drive-through tent for patients who are being tested for the COVID-19 coronavirus at the Citadel Mall parking lot Friday, March 13, 2020, in Charleston, S.C. The vast majority of people recover from the new coronavirus. According to the World Health Organization, most people recover in about two to six weeks, depending on the severity of the illness. (AP Photo/Mic Smith)

FLORENCE, S.C. (AP) — South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster prepared to declare a state of emergency Friday in two counties where coronavirus has been shown to have spread from person to person.

In a news release, McMaster said he would also direct schools in Kershaw and Lancaster counties to be closed for two weeks. An executive order would also suspend visitation at state and local correctional institutions in all of South Carolina’s 46 counties and direct state health officials to restrict visitation at nursing homes and assisted living facilities. State government offices were to remain open across South Carolina.

On Wednesday, state health officials said South Carolina’s 10th case of COVID-19 was diagnosed in Lancaster County and the person is in isolation in a hospital. This case is not linked to any other cases and the infected person does not appear to have traveled outside the state, according to the Department of Health and Environmental Control.

Seven of the cases are in Camden, a Kershaw County city of about 7,200 people about 40 miles (65 kilometers) northeast of Columbia.

In a news release, McMaster said Kershaw and Lancaster counties are the only areas in South Carolina in which there is evidence of community spread, meaning the source of the virus is unknown.

This week, the University of South Carolina - the state’s largest university - canceled classes for its 35,000 students at its main Columbia campus and in Lancaster, Sumter, Aiken and Salkehatchie until March 22, extending this week’s spring break and moving to virtual instruction when students return. Other schools, including South Carolina State University, Coastal Carolina University and Furman University, also canceled classed until March 22.

The governor said he would hold a late afternoon media availability with state health officials. On Wednesday, McMaster stressed that government offices would remain open and that “schools should continue to remain open and provide instruction.” Some Democratic state lawmakers have called on the governor to allow the activation of emergency resources to cover health needs and response efforts.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, but for a few, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illnesses including pneumonia. More than 130,000 people have been infected worldwide, with more than 5,000 deaths, but the vast majority recover within weeks. The U.S. tally topped 1,000 cases on Wednesday, with at least 30 deaths.

___

The Associated Press receives support for health and science coverage from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

___

Follow AP coverage of the virus outbreak at https://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak.