COLUMBIA (AP) - South Carolina emergency officials are asking for donations of protective gear as the number of people hospitalized for COVID-19 cases continues to rise.
Anyone with protective face shields, gloves, medical gowns or N-95 respirator masks is being asked to call the South Carolina Emergency Management Division, the agency said.
The call comes as state and local officials think the peak of coronavirus cases is approaching. About half the state's hospital beds have been occupied, a level that has remained about the same for the past week or so, according to the state Department of Health and Environmental Control.
The number of COVID-19 infections in South Carolina rose to more than 3,550 overall, while 10 additional deaths from the virus brought to 97 the number of people killed by the pandemic in the state, DHEC reported in its Tuesday update.
More than half of South Carolina's 46 counties have had at least one COVID-19 death, health officials said.
The hardest-hit counties when the number of residents are factored in continue to be Kershaw, Clarendon, Lee and Sumter counties, all smaller, more rural counties to the east of Columbia. The outbreak in South Carolina started in Kershaw County.
One of the deaths reported on Tuesday was that of a state prison employee at Lee Correctional Institution, the Corrections Department said on Twitter.
The employee, who was not named, was not a guard. The employee was last at work March 27 and last had contact with inmates the day before, prison officials said.
Twenty-nine state prison employees have been diagnosed with COVID-19, but no inmates have been infected, the Corrections Department said.
All who had close contact with the employees have completed 14 days of isolation and monitoring and none have gotten sick, the prison agency said.
For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up within weeks. The vast majority recover. But for some, especially older adults and those with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness and even death.
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