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SC Governor issues mandatory quarantine for visitors from virus 'hotspots'

Sen. Lindsey Graham said it would likely take until summer to get the virus fully under control.

WEST COLUMBIA, S.C. — South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster has issued a mandatory quarantine for anyone coming into the state from a coronavirus hotspot, as the state announced four more deaths from the virus.

McMaster announced his plan at the state emergency operations center in West Columbia, where he was joined by Sen. Lindsey Graham and Sen. Tim Scott.

FACTS NOT FEAR: WLTX Coronavirus Coverage

The mandatory executive order means people who come into the state from an area with a large outbreak must self-isolate for two weeks or face penalties. The order mentions specifically hot spots such as New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and New Orleans.

Breaking the law could be penalized with up to 30 days in jail and a fine of up to $1,000. McMaster said he hopes those measures won't be needed.

Dr. Linda Bell, the state's infections disease expert, announced four more deaths, bringing the total to 13. There are 539 total case, up 86 from the previous day.

She said the statewide hospital bed capacity in the state is at 54 percent, which is a 308 bed decrease from Monday. 

Sen. Lindsey Graham said it would likely take until summer to get the virus fully under control, and said that any decision on going back to work must be made on science. He said the more people take this seriously now, the better it will be for the economy and the public.

"I think the worst thing to do is to create a bump in the economy that leads to a spike in cases," Graham said.

One person who was not there today was Dr. Rick Toomey, the director of South Carolina's health agency, DHEC. Toomey announced Friday he was taking an immediate leave of absence to deal with personal medical issues. 

Marshall Taylor will serve as Acting Director for the agency during Toomey's absence, which is expected to last two to three weeks.

In Thursday's briefing, McMaster said he did not feel a statewide stay-at-home order was needed.  McMaster said he believes people have scaled back their travel, many businesses have shut down or switched to remote work, and that people are getting the message.

RELATED: SC Governor says statewide stay-at-home order not needed now

Both Columbia and Charleston did pass stay-at-home orders. However, on Friday, South Carolina Attorney General issued an opinion stating local jurisdictions don't have the authority to issue such orders. 

RELATED: What the Columbia 'Stay Home, Stay Safe' ordinance means for you

RELATED: Local governments don't have authority to issue stay-at-home orders, SC attorney general says

What is the Coronavirus? 

Coronaviruses 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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