Five deaths related to the novel coronavirus have been reported in South Carolina, as cases statewide continue to mount and Gov. Henry McMaster ramps up restrictions aimed at combating the growing pandemic.
The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control on Monday announced the fourth and fifth deaths in the state: two elderly people from Clarendon and Kershaw counties, respectively. As of Tuesday afternoon, a total of 342 coronavirus cases across 36 counties have been confirmed.
The health agency has reported two cases in Aiken County and one case in Edgefield County. One case of COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, has been reported at the Savannah River Site. It is unclear where that case traces back to.
The governor's office announced Tuesday that South Carolina's public schools and colleges would remain closed through April.
McMaster during a Monday briefing urged the public to take precautionary measures – and take guidance from health officials seriously. The Republican governor also issued another executive order, directing law enforcement to disperse any gathering of three or more people that could damage public health.
The order does not apply to private businesses or employers, he said, or in a person's home.
"So I want to ask everyone to redouble their efforts to see that we do not jam people together, we don't have groups, whether it's spontaneous or planned, and not to put others in that immediate contact that results in this infection," McMaster said. "That is how it is spread, by touching each other or touching one's stuff and then going to your hands with your nose, mouth and your eyes."
The state health department's public lab has run more than 2,000 coronavirus tests, according to an online tracker.
Nearby Georgia has reported far more cases – and deaths – than South Carolina: As of noon Tuesday, the Peach State has tracked 1,026 cases as well as 32 related deaths. Richmond County, right across the Savannah River, has 11 confirmed cases. There are four confirmed cases in Georgia's Columbia County.
A retired person was the first to test positive for COVID-19 at Fort Gordon's Dwight D. Eisenhower Army Medical Center. The person "sought medical treatment on an unrelated concern at DDEAMC and received a COVID-19 test, which was positive," according to a U.S. Army announcement.
Fort Gordon in Augusta is home to the Army's cyber center of excellence.
South Carolina officials still expect the number of novel coronavirus cases to increase.
"This disease is here, it's in our communities, and we all have a part to play in helping to stop the spread of it," Dr. Linda Bell, a state epidemiologist, said in a statement Monday.