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Governor declares state of emergency for South Carolina, closes Lancaster and Kershaw schools

The governor declared a state of emergency in South Carolina due to coronavirus concerns.

COLUMBIA, S.C. — Governor Henry McMaster declared a state of emergency in South Carolina because of the novel coronavirus, COVID-19. 

This response comes hours after President Trump declared a national emergency. 

RELATED: President Trump declares national emergency on coronavirus

Gov. McMaster announced the state of emergency during a media availability at 5 p.m. to enhance the state's response to COVID-19 in South Carolina.

Gov. McMaster also closed schools in Lancaster County for a period of 14 days due to community spread.

The governor has already closed Kershaw County School District schools for two weeks, including all school-related activities. Starting Monday, students will do classwork online through eLearning.

RELATED: Midlands schools modify schedules due amid coronoavirus concerns

The governor's order also directed the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) to consult with the state's Superintendent of Education and local school district leadership to provide guidance on if and when remaining school districts should decide to close schools and for what period of time.

State government offices will remain open, visitation at state and local correctional facilities will be suspended immediately throughout South Carolina, DHEC will immediately restrict visitation to nursing homes ans assisted living facilities, state price gouging laws will go into effect immediately in the state, and The State Emergency Management Plan will be activated in South Carolina. 

Dr. Linda Bell encouraged citizens to not take closures lightly. 

Dr. Bell said that DHEC is working to move from containment to mitigating the spread of COVID-19.

"We are monitoring the status of virus in South Carolina to make informed decisions about large gatherings. We have no evidence that the cancellation of schools and events outside of Lancaster and Kershaw Counties is needed at this time," Bell said.  

DHEC is following CDC recommendations to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Anyone who has any symptoms of illness is encouraged to stay home. 

As of Friday, The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) says it has tested a total of 123 individuals for COVID-19, which includes the seven presumptive positive cases and six confirmed cases. DHEC officials say they will update the public as soon as the confirmatory test results from the CDC or other reference laboratories that are now testing are available, and as other new information is known.

There is a total of 13 cases, presumed and confirmed in South Carolina, according to DHEC. Nine cases are in Kershaw County, two are in Lancaster County, one is in Charleston County, and one is in Spartanburg County. 

The newest possible case is a woman in Kershaw County. According to DHEC, the cases in Lancaster and Kershaw Counties do have a connection. 

Schools in the Midlands have started to take precautions like canceling after-school actives and implementing extra cleaning. 

RELATED: Midlands schools modify schedules due amid coronoavirus concerns

The state's Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman said during the press conference they they are doing everything possible to keep schools open and making sure that districts have plans to conduct education virtually if needed. 

"This is certainly a tough situation, there will be dislocations, there will be more, but we'll get through it," said Gov. McMaster. 

RELATED: Richland One taking precautions due to coronavirus concerns

RELATED: Sumter School District cancels travel, after-school events due to coronavirus concerns

Universities and colleges in South Carolina have extended breaks and have plans to hold virtual classes. 

RELATED: South Carolina colleges, universities take precautions for coronavirus

McMaster also granted state agencies the ability to allow their older or at risk employees to work from home. 

On Saturday, McMaster has also asked utility companies to not suspend or disconnect services for nonpayment during the State of Emergency. 

What is the Coronavirus? 

Conaviruses 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. These people will be monitored for fever and respiratory symptoms.

People can help to prevent the spread of the virus in the following ways:

  • wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after using the bathroom, before eating, and after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing. If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. And, always wash your hands with soap and water if they are visibly dirty.
  • avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
  • stay home when you’re sick.
  • cough or sneeze into your elbow or use a tissue and put it in the trash immediately.
  • clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
  • get the influenza vaccine.

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.

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