SC coronavirus updates: COVID cases surpass 464,000

 SC coronavirus updates: COVID cases surpass 464,000

We’re tracking the most up-to-date information about the coronavirus and COVID-19 vaccines in South Carolina. Check back for updates.

More than 300 new cases reported

At least 464,538 people have tested positive for the coronavirus in South Carolina and 8,056 have died since last March, according to state health officials.

The S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control on Tuesday reported 344 new COVID-19 cases, down from 499 reported the day before.

Four coronavirus-related deaths were also reported Tuesday.

At least 514 people were reported hospitalized with the coronavirus in the state as of Tuesday.

As of Tuesday, 5.7% of COVID-19 tests were reported positive. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says 5% or lower means there is a low level of community spread.

About 1.9 million COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered in South Carolina, and more than 675,000 people in the state have “completed vaccination” as of Sunday, the last day new data was reported.

Plan to break up DHEC revealed

Plans to break apart the state Department of Health and Environmental Control, and restructure it, are coming into clearer focus, The State reported.

Criticized as being too large and too slow to react, proponents of breaking up DHEC want to separate the health and environmental responsibilities into different agencies.

Tuesday, a Senate subcommittee agreed to establish a Department of Environmental Services to handle the tasks overseen by DHEC’s current environmental division. Meanwhile, the proposed bill would put the agency’s health division together with other related divisions.

Earlier plans to put the Department of Agriculture in charge of many of the state’s environmental programs were criticized by environmentalists and some lawmakers.

Regal movie theaters to reopen soon across SC

Regal Cinemas closed down for months during the pandemic, but the big screens will be lighting up again soon at locations across the country.

Reopenings will happen in stages, with those in the largest markets scheduled first, as early as April 2, The State reported. But no South Carolina locations will be part of that first stage.

To see when Regal theaters are opening throughout SC, read the full story here.

No more free COMET rides

Columbia’s COMET bus system, and DART paratransit services, will stop providing free rides beginning April 12, The State reported.

COMET and DART began allowing riders on board free of charge in March 2020, as testing for COVID-19 became available in South Carolina.

“As more of our bus operators and the public receive their COVID vaccines, we are carefully returning to normal,” COMET Executive Director/CEO John Andoh said in the release. “We appreciate our riders’ patience and understanding as we continue to navigate the circumstances of the pandemic together.”

Fees can be found on the COMET website.

Myrtle Beach struggles to fill jobs

Myrtle Beach businesses are struggling to fill job openings. It’s not a new problem, but it’s made significantly worse by the coronavirus pandemic, The Sun News reports.

Many older workers left their jobs for fear of contracting the virus, and the pandemic pushed the Trump administration to cut off most immigration into the country — and that includes temporary workers. Without that flow of foreign workers, much of Myrtle Beach’s hospitality industry is short staffed, and there’s little they can do about it.

As a popular tourist destination, there’s usually plenty of customers, but Myrtle Beach’s own population is too small to provide the necessary workforce, said Stephen Greene, CEO of the Myrtle Beach Hospitality Association.

Some business owners blame stimulus checks and unemployment aid as the reason they’re not seeing enough applicants.

“We can’t even get people to apply, which is just mind-boggling,” Joe Miller, owner of Joe’s Diner, said. “We don’t know what we’re going to do.”

Richland 1 coach dies of COVID complications

Damien Jackson, a coach and teacher at Dreher High School, has died due to COVID-19.

Jackson was a popular figure at the Richland 1 school. He coached girls’ track and field, was offensive coordinator for the football team, and also taught math at the junior and senior level, The State reported.

He had been hospitalized over coronavirus complications, Dreher HS principal Kevin Hasinger said in a message to parents, adding his “positive attitude and love for Dreher will be sorely missed.”

Administrators, coaches and teachers took to social media Monday, expressing support and offering condolences.

“Words (cannot) express our heartbreak,” Dreher High Athletics tweeted Monday afternoon. “Please pray for his family during this difficult time.”

Mask mandate ends for North Myrtle Beach

After a motion to extend the community’s state of emergency failed to pass in the city council, masks are no longer required to be worn in public spaces in North Myrtle Beach.

Only two city council members voted to extend the state of emergency, which expired on Sunday, The Sun News reported.

The council had previously done away with a requirement that masks be worn in restaurants, but up until Sunday, the rule still applied to places like grocery stores and other retail businesses.

Getting your COVID shot? Doctors discuss what to expect

With all South Carolina residents 16 years and older becoming eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine starting March 31, many may be wondering what to expect from the vaccine.

The Sun News spoke with doctors, who shared what they see as some of the most important things to be aware of before getting vaccinated.

Read what they said here.

Related stories from Myrtle Beach Sun News

Mitchell Willetts is a real-time news reporter covering the Carolinas for McClatchy. He is a University of Oklahoma graduate and outdoors enthusiast.

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