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 400 new cases reported
At least 465,142 people have tested positive for the coronavirus in South Carolina and 8,075 have died since last March, according to state health officials.
The S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control on Wednesday reported 474 new COVID-19 cases, up from 344 reported the day before.
A total of 19 coronavirus-related deaths were also reported Wednesday.
At least 516 people were reported hospitalized with the coronavirus in the state as of Wednesday, with 124 patients in the ICU.
As of Wednesday, 6.6% 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.
Myrtle Beach loosens mask rules
Masks are no longer required in most public spaces in Myrtle Beach, The Sun News reported.
City manager Fox Simons issued an order Wednesday that encourages people to wear masks, but ultimately leaves the decision up to individual businesses whether to require them.
Masks must still be worn in government buildings.
“Businesses have the option of requiring masks in indoor public spaces if their staff and patrons are concerned about contracting COVID-19 from each other, and we encourage them to exercise that option,” Simons said in a statement.
Legislators push to reopen schools
While most school districts already have, or are moving toward, resuming in-person classes five days a week, some South Carolina legislators are forcing the issue.
The Senate voted unanimously Wednesday to require all schools to return to five-day instruction by April 12.
There are currently 236 schools offering hybrid education models, and one doing remote learning only.
Only three school districts in the state don’t have plans to resume in-person classes in the next two to three weeks: Colleton, Hampton 1 and Hampton 2.
Mask rules extended in Beaufort
Beaufort’s citywide mask mandate will remain in effect through the end of April, according to The Island Packet.
City council members voted Tuesday to extend the mandate for another month, and urged residents to get vaccinated against COVID-19.
“We feel an extension of 30 days will give us the opportunity to see what’s happening,” City Manager Bill Prokop said. “At the last count, our positive rate was just below 5%, but we still do not have enough people who have their vaccination.”
The inoculation rate in Beaufort is at 33%.
S.C. governor sends $6 million to address internet deserts
Internet accessibility issues exacerbated by the pandemic could soon be remedied, The State reported.
South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster announced Tuesday that he would use $6 million of the state’s federal COVID-19 funds to help address broadband deserts.
The funding was awarded to the University of South Carolina, which will team with Benedict College to establish eight Apple computer labs across the the state. Each lab will be available to the public, free of charge, according to the governor’s office.
“The strategic placement of these labs will bolster South Carolina’s premier workforce training efforts by giving our communities and people access to resources they need to expand participation in our state’s growing economy,” McMaster said in a statement.
Plan to break up DHEC revealed
Plans to break apart and restructure the state Department of Health and Environmental Control are coming into clearer focus, The State reported.
Proponents of breaking up DHEC say the agency is too large and too slow to react, and they want to separate the health and environmental responsibilities into different agencies.
A Senate subcommittee agreed Tuesday 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 for months during the pandemic, but the big screens will be lighting up again soon at locations across the country, including in South Carolina.
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 the state, read the full story here.
No more free COMET rides
In Columbia, the 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 a statement. “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.
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.”