Coronavirus updates for Aug. 17: Here’s what to know in South Carolina this week

Ted S. Warren/AP

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

More than 12,700 COVID cases in SC last week

The S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control on Tuesday, Aug. 16, reported 12,726 COVID-19 cases and eight coronavirus-related deaths for the week ending Aug. 13. The counts include probable and confirmed coronavirus cases and deaths.

At least 1.6 million coronavirus cases have been reported in South Carolina, and more than 18,200 people have died of the virus since March 2020, according to state health officials.

Data shows COVID-19 cases are down about 22% compared with this time last week while hospitalizations jumped 1%. As of Aug. 13, an average 590 people in the state were hospitalized with the coronavirus, including 80 patients being treated in intensive care and 27 patients on ventilators, the latest data shows.

The omicron variant accounted for 100% of coronavirus strains identified in South Carolina for the week of Aug. 6, according to the latest data. The DHEC’s Public Health Laboratory conducts sequencing on randomly chosen samples as part of nationwide efforts to find out about new strains of the virus, the agency’s website reads.

Nearly 53% percent of South Carolinians eligible to receive a coronavirus vaccine are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, and nearly 61% have received at least one dose, state health data shows.

First lady Jill Biden tests positive for COVID, White House says

First lady Jill Biden has tested positive for COVID-19 after vacationing in South Carolina earlier this week, The White House announced Tuesday, Aug. 16.

She started showing signs of the virus on Monday, Aug. 15, and is experiencing only “mild symptoms,” McClatchy News reported, citing the first lady’s communications director, Elizabeth Alexander.

Jill Biden will continue to isolate in the Palmetto State until she receives two negative coronavirus tests, White House officials said. She is fully vaccinated and boosted and will take the anti-viral drug Paxlovid.

Read the full story here.

SC DHEC relaxes masking, COVID quarantine rules for schools

Students and staff no longer have to stay home if they’re exposed to COVID-19 as long as there are no active outbreaks, according to updated guidance from South Carolina’s Department of Health and Environmental Control.

State health officials are rolling back some COVID-related rules as thousands of students, faculty and staff head back to school this week, The State reported. Those who get sick or test positive for the virus must continue isolating at home, however.

“DHEC’s goal is to support schools in providing the safest and least restrictive learning environment possible while keeping everyone safe,” Dr. Brannon Traxler, DHEC Public Health director, said in a press release.

“We recognize that every community is different and may have different transmission levels of COVID-19, so it is important for districts to make the best decision for their individual schools.”

Read more about DHEC’s updated guidance here.

Masks encouraged in some SC counties due to high COVID spread, CDC says

Residents in 32 South Carolina counties are encouraged to wear face masks due to high levels of COVID-19, The State reported, citing federal health officials.

Twelve counties have reported medium rates of the virus and two others have low levels, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s latest community levels map.

In communities experiencing high levels, the CDC recommends people wear masks indoors in public places, including on public transportation. Residents are also encouraged to stay up to date with their COVID-19 vaccinations and take extra precautions if they are at risk of severe illness.

Read the full story here.