COLUMBIA, S.C. — South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster asked the public to use common sense to help combat the coronavirus in the state, as the number of cases continues to rise. 

McMaster gave an update on the state's response Thursday afternoon at the emergency operations center.

"We need to be calm and not lose our heads," McMaster said. "Be courteous to our neighbors. We are staying ahead of it but we need the cooperation of every citizens."

RELATED: Live updates: Coronavirus in South Carolina

McMaster also is telling college presidents in the state to go to online only classes for the remainder of the semester, while the state's school superintendent said local school district closings will likely be extended.

Here is the latest information:

NUMBER OF CASES RISE:

New totals: 

  • 21 new cases
  • 81 total cases 
  • 17 counties have cases 

State epidemiologist Dr. Linda Bell said there were 21 new coronavirus cases since the last update a day earlier. Of those, 4 were in Richland County and 4 were in Kershaw County.

She said people in any of these counties should follow the same basic prevention rules, including washing hands, coughing into sleeves, social distancing, and staying home when sick. 

RELATED: Family of 4 could get $3,000 under virus relief plan, Mnuchin says

REQUESTS TO THE PUBLIC, :

Gov. McMaster made the following requests at the news conference. These are not mandates, but he's urging people to follow these guidelines.

Citizens should use common sense - He said people should be avoiding public places if they can. He's asking people to treat neighbors courteously and not to hoard items at stores. 

Hospitals should restrict access - He said state hospitals and overnight medical facilities should immediately restrict visitations to patients with exception to end of life visitors. He said visitors are asking for masks and gloves, which can't be given. 

NEW EXECUTIVE ORDERS: 

McMaster gave new executive orders. These are mandates which must be followed

All non-essential state employees shall stay home from work - effective Friday, March 20. Agency heads will determine who is essential

Colleges to move to online only - This affects public colleges. Each institution president shall determine which employees are essentially to do online instruction.  Both USC and Clemson announced within moments of the governor's statements campuses would close and it would be online only.  

State access to county, city buildings - County & municipal governments must provide unlimited access to state agencies in county buildings 

Approval period for unemployment benefits expedited - Benefits will get approved about a week quicker than normal, and they're working to extend that. 

Unemployment payments suspended - For employers, unemployment insurance benefits payments are suspended until June 1 

Procurement regulations are suspended for state agencies - It will allow them to rapidly acquire resources to fight the disease

Certificate of need regulations suspended - Temporarily suspends certificate of need regulations as necessary to expedite treatment 

Law enforcement - directed to vigorously enforce the law to stop lawlessness during the emergency

SCHOOLS UPDATE: 

In addition to colleges going online, State Education Superintendent Molly Spearman said the closure of public schools would likely be extended. She said as far as figuring out the impact of the change, the priority would be on high school seniors, who are nearing graduation and some who are attempting to get into college.

When asked, she said they had not gotten to the point of cancelling classes for the remainder of the current school year. 

In his last address on Tuesday, McMaster banned all in-restaurant dining, limiting those businesses to takeout, delivery, and drive-thru only. He also waived a number of regulations to speed up response, delayed the state tax deadline until June 1, and ordered the National Guard to begin planning for how they could make makeshift medical facilities if needed. 

RELATED: List: How Midlands restaurants and breweries are dealing with COVID-19

RELATED: SC Governor bans in-restaurant dining due to coronavirus

McMaster also requested that stores limit the number of essential supplies, such as cleaning materials and paper products, could be given to customers

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.