S.C. inmate gets COVID-19, burning ban begins today


COLUMBIA (AP) - An inmate in a local jail in South Carolina has tested positive for COVID-19, leading officials to isolate the nearly three dozen inmates in his housing unit.

The inmate in the Charleston County jail appears to be the first inmate to test positive for coronavirus in the state. No state prisoners have tested positive, although at least 17 Corrections Department employees have been infected, according to the agency.

Several police officers across the state also have COVID-19, including Pageland Police Chief Craig Greenlee, who isolated himself on March 27 when he noticed he had symptoms and learned he tested positive Saturday, according to the town's Facebook page.

The coronavirus also prompted the Forestry Commission to ban all outdoor burning until further notice. That includes campfires and fires set to get rid of yard debris.

The ban, which starts today, is needed because smoke can cause symptoms similar to COVID-19 and make respiratory problems worse in people already infected.

Burning debris is critical to slowing wildfires and clearing land for farmers, "but extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures, and the decision to enact this ban really had to be made in the current context," Forestry Commission Fire Chief Darryl Jones said in a statement.