Virus claims 2nd from Sumter, Camden's Jack West; Columbia gets stay-at-home order


A second person from Sumter County has died from COVID-19.

The death was announced Thursday afternoon by the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control, bringing the total number of deaths in the state from the coronavirus to nine. The person who died was an elderly person who had underlying health conditions.

The other person whose death was announced Thursday was Camden resident Jack West, a legislative lobbyist and son of former Gov. John West. Gov. Henry McMaster’s voice broke during a news conference Thursday as he said West was a “good man from a good family.”

“This unfortunate announcement is a reminder of the importance of taking actions to protect ourselves, our family and friends and our community from this disease,” said Dr. Brannon Traxler, DHEC physician consultant.

Along with Sumter’s two deaths and West’s in Kershaw County, the other six include two in Florence and one each in Clarendon, Lexington, Charleston and Horry counties.

DHEC reported the total number of positive cases in the state is at 456 across 39 counties. Kershaw County, which has a population of about 65,500, remains with the most cases at 64.

The state’s largest counties – Greenville has 514,213 – are now almost equal to Kershaw’s numbers. Charleston and Richland both have 60 confirmed cases, and Greenville has 51 cases.

Sumter remains at 10 positive cases, the 11th most in the state, while Clarendon has five and Lee has two.

In the conference Thursday, State Epidemiologist Dr. Linda Bell discussed DHEC’s projections it released Wednesday saying there may be more than 8,000 cases in South Carolina by May 2.

With only 32 new cases announced Thursday, Bell said the fluctuation in the number of new cases from day to day – other days have shown more than 100 – reflects the availability of chemicals needed for labs to perform the testing.

Bell said the public health lab has a backlog of about 1,600 samples it cannot test right now because there is a shortage of chemicals needed to do so. The state lab has tested 2,578 samples so far.

Because there is a shortage of what’s needed to examine test samples, Bell and McMaster said the state is prioritizing high-risk people to get tested and is asking not everyone get tested. Rather, stay home if you are sick if you can.

“We will continue to see more cases,” Bell said, urging South Carolinians that we must all get better at preventing spread.

To help contain the acceleration of the spread of the virus, Columbia is being put under a stay-at-home order starting Sunday at 12:01 a.m. The move by Columbia City Council means all non-essential businesses must close for two weeks. Residents should stay home with exceptions including exercising outside.

“We are about to go into one of the darkest periods in the last 100 years. We need to be prepared on the front end,” Mayor Steve Benjamin said.

Columbia became the second city in the Palmetto State to issue such an order after Charleston did so on Tuesday.

There is no statewide shelter-in-place order at this time.

Nicholas Davidson, DHEC public health director, said during the conference that there are about more than 5,000 beds open in the state, with more than 6,000 being used. There are also 180 ventilators being used and more than 1,200 available.